Is Elling Ascent A Smokescreen?

At practice Tuesday, coach Mike Tice moved kicker Aaron Elling to the top of the kicker battle with Hayden Epstein and Todd France. VU is wondering whether the switch is motivational or legitimate?

With all the changes that have come on the Vikings depth chart since training camp opened -- which have ranged from flipping linebackers to the ups and downs of the running backs to moving rookie Kevin Williams from tackle to end -- a move made Tuesday has some ears perked up.

Coach Mike Tice said Tuesday that Aaron Elling is currently the No. 1 kicker in the three-way battle for solving the Vikings kicking woes that followed the release of Mitch Berger. Prior to Berger's release, he handled punting and kickoff duties, which allowed the Vikings to keep rock-steady kicker Gary Anderson on the roster. When Berger was cut, the Vikings were forced to not re-sign Anderson because it was believed the 53rd spot on the roster was better invested in a ninth defensive back or seventh linebacker.

After Doug Brien singlehandedly cost the Vikings a win vs. the Bills and field goals became a coin-flip proposition, Anderson was brought back. Tice again reiterated Tuesday that he won't have two kickers on his 53-man roster ... for now.

The appointment of Elling is something VU is looking at skeptically. Tice has made a habit of making similar announcements, like claiming to be interested in Antonio Freeman when contract talks with Derrick Alexander stalled and proclaiming Larry Ned as a viable contender for the starting RB job at the start of training camp. In both instances, the talk didn't jibe with the reality.

There are some saying the announcement that Elling is now No. 1 in the kicker race is motivation for Hayden Epstein to put up or shut up. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen. But maybe the best tactic would be to accept the fact that a young kicker is best-suited to kick balls into the end zone following Vikings touchdowns. If a game is on the line, VU would like to see Anderson doing the kicking. That 53-yarder that left Cris Carter's jaw agape still brings smiles to our faces.

* Tice said Tuesday he will keep the first team on the field Friday vs. the Raiders until he's happy with their performance. Seeing as the Vikings will be missing both of their starting cornerbacks Friday, the reserves may have to play the entire game to get a smile from Tice.
* Former Vikings guard Corbin Lacina signed with the Patriots Tuesday.
* VU has been told that, barring a sensational performance by one the Vikings running backs in the final two preseason games, a full-time replacement for Michael Bennett won't be decided on until the regular season begins. The only thing Tice has committed to is that rookie Onterrio Smith won't start vs. Green Bay.
* Raiders RB Charlie Garner missed a fourth straight practice Tuesday and is questionable to even play Friday, which could open the door for rookie Justin Fargas, who lit up the second-team defense of the 49ers last week.

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