Claiborne Ready For Lions

While observers of the Vikings are starting to take notice, Vikings coaches were telling us all offseason how impressed they were with free-agent linebacker Chris Claiborne. He may be the SOFA (Steal Of Free Agency), and he's ready to go back to his former NFL team this Sunday.

One single move at linebacker may have been the most significant the Vikings made in the offseason.

The signing of free agent Chris Claiborne and moving him to the weak side, where he can be afforded more room to roam and make plays, instantly made the defense better. Henri Crockett plays strongside linebacker and Greg Biekert, of course, is in the middle. Nick Rogers moved from the starting lineup into an active reserve role. And rather than tapping the resources of vagabonds like Jim Nelson, Lemanski Hall and Patrick Chukwurah, the Vikings' pool of reserves is loaded with talent and potential in second-round draft picks E.J. Henderson (2003), and Raonall Smith (2002), who was on the IR last season.

That's all because the Vikings got instantly better when they took Claiborne away from the Lions.

Claiborne said every game on the NFL schedule carries major significance. Still, Sunday's game against the Lions at Detroit — where he spent the first four years of his career racking up 546 tackles — naturally carries additional hype.

"I realize now that you have to get up for every game. Every game in this league is big, not just the ones they say are big," Claiborne said. "Each week I want to play my best game of the season. I have to look at every game like that. But when we play Detroit, I hope that we score 50 points and we hold them to zero."

Even though he was a free agent and wanted to get the most beneficial deal for him, there was extra incentive for Claiborne to stay in the NFC North Division, where he was familiar with opponents. Claiborne will feel like he's right at home in the six games against Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago.

"That definitely made it an easy decision," he said. "And this team made a lot of good moves in the offseason. Plus, I felt like I would be one of the guys, not the only guy who came in and helped this defense. It's working out."

With the Vikings 2-0 and looking for a sweep in the first round of games with the NFC North, "it's working out" may be an understatement.

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