Bears Game Means More To Bates

Naturally, playing against teams that previously release them means more to NFL players. It's no different with Vikings receiver D'Wayne Bates, who has something to prove Sunday night.

Last Sunday, Vikings defensive tackle Billy Lyon had additional incentive to beat the Green Bay Packers. Lyon spent 1998-2002 wearing green and gold and playing his home games at Lambeau Field.

On Sunday night, in a game telecast by ESPN from the Metrodome, Vikings receiver D'Wayne Bates makes his twice-annual appearance against the Chicago Bears, an organization he once called his employer.

Bates spent his first three seasons as a Bear bouncing between the active roster and the inactive list. In three years with the Bears, Bates caught just 15 passes for 221 yards and one touchdown. The Vikings afforded him the most playing time of his career when, last season, he caught 50 passes for 689 yards and four touchdowns.

Bates tries to downplay the matchup against the Bears, but …

"There's a little animosity, especially in my situation coming from Chicago," he said. "But you don't go out there with hatred, you go out there with a purpose. I have a lot of friends still on that team, so I'm actually looking forward to playing that game. They're the only other team I've played for."

It's no secret, though, that when players face their former teams for some mysterious reason breakthrough games usually occur.

"I know, I know," said Bates, laughing. "You don't want to say it, but you want to leave a mark and make a team regret ever thinking of trading you or releasing you. I'll definitely be up for this week."

Bates caught two passes for 50 yards against the Bears in the first meeting last season, but he missed the midseason matchup with an injury.

Student to teacher
Last season was Bates' first as a starter. But after offseason roster moves and the draft last spring, Bates — maybe by default — has quickly become a "wily" Vikings veteran receiver.

Look at the depth chart. The Vikings have Randy Moss, Bates and a handful of players — Nate Burleson, Keenan Howry, Kelly Campbell and Kenny Clark — who have little to no experience. Because of that, Bates says that even though he remains the team's second receiver, his role has changed dramatically.

"I think it means I have to take on a leadership role," Bates said. "Everyone else is young, so I have to be a leader. We have some young guys, so Randy and I have to set good examples on and off the field. They have to learn through experience, and however I can help, I'll do that."

It'll take a while for the younger players, Bates said, to realize the greatness of the Vikings' No. 1 receiver, who one NFL scout says "is still the league's best receiver when he's got it going."

Said Bates: "Last year, coming in from Chicago, I just settled under Randy's wings. I just wanted to get a feel of playing in this offense with Daunte (Culpepper) and with Randy Moss. But sometimes you have to step back and realize you're playing with Moss, because he's an icon in this league."

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