A surprise at Thursday's practice for the Vikings was to see running back Doug Chapman on the sidelines in a protective boot on his right leg. Chapman, who re-aggravated his high ankle sprain, was sidelined -- opening the door for Onterrio Smith to stake his lofty claim of being the steal of the draft.
Smith, who was one of only two Vikings on the active roster that didn't see action in the season opener vs. the Packers, moved into the No. 2 RB slot behind Moe Williams with the setback by Chapman.
Sunday's game may well become a testament to the veracity of Mike Tice's post-draft comments concerning the Vikings' running game. At the time Smith was drafted, Tice said it had more to do with his ranking on their draft board -- the end of the first round on their chart -- than insurance for injured Michael Bennett. Tice also stated Williams would not be the team's featured back, citing his value on special teams and as a third-down and short-yardage back.
With Chapman again taking himself out of the equation, Tice will be forced to decide whether he keeps his word on Williams or not. Before the opener, Tice said he would not start Smith. Not only did he not start, he never saw the field. That was then. He made no such assurance following the game as to Smith's status for the home opener.
From what VU was told Thursday, Smith has been told to be ready to prove his case to the team. While Williams will start, barring something unforseen, Smith will get his chance to prove himself Sunday. If he succeeds immediately, he stays in the lineup. If he doesn't, Williams will return and he will be back on the sidelines.
This may be part of Tice's master plan. He was honest with Smith in the opener. He is going to give him his first shot as a pro Sunday. What Smith does with that chance will go a long to determining the RB pecking order from here on through.
Whether he likes it or not, Chapman may once again be the determining factor in the Vikings' running game. His inability to beat out Michael Bennett carved out one chapter. His potential inability to play Sunday may carve out the next chapter.
* The Vikings-Packers game drew a whopping 77 share in the Twin Cities TV market Sunday. What does that mean? Almost eight of every 10 televisions that were turned on after noon Sunday were watching the Vikings.
* Bennett got a good initial result from doctors concerning his recovery from his own foot injury. While VU is being told the team is more cautious about the prognosis than Bennett, he is convinced he will meet his midseason timetable for returning to the team.
* Safety Corey Chavous was upgraded from doubtful to questionable Thursday. While it is still very unlikely he will start, VU has been told if he proclaims himself ready to play Sunday, Chavous will be on the field -- a lot.
* Vikings tackle Mike Rosenthal was fined $5,000 by Gene Washington and his NFL thought police for what was termed a leg whip in Sunday's game vs. the Packers. Seeing as Washington is a former wide receiver, it's surprising that the team wasn't hit with a fine for the injury to Robert Ferguson or the high pass that injured Donald Driver.
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