Loosening Up The Tight End

The Vikings have talked about getting tight end Jim Kleinsasser more involved in the offense, but the numbers prove that is now happening. Plus, notes about football after a week that had more to do with blood-alcohol levels.

The Vikings have adjusted their No. 1-ranked offense to include tight end Jim Kleinsasser in the passing game.

Kleinsasser had 12 catches for 110 yards in the first eight games, and 12 catches for 128 yards in the past two. He had a team-high seven catches for 67 yards in last week's 28-18 loss at Oakland.

Kleinsasser still blocks during maximum-protection situations. Last week, with the Vikings trailing by 3 and inside their own 10-yard line in the fourth quarter, Kleinsasser stayed in to block.

With Randy Moss double-covered and the other receivers also blanketed, quarterback Daunte Culpepper threw an interception over the middle. The Raiders turned the pick into a touchdown and a 10-point lead.

The Vikings are considering releasing Kleinsasser into pass routes even more, especially over the middle.

Sometimes, defenses are soft in the middle because linebackers are helping triple cover Moss. If Kleinsasser can get the ball over the middle, he can make big gains because he's hard to bring down once he gets moving with the ball.

  • LB Raonall Smith, who has been inactive the past four games because of a hamstring injury, is getting closer to being ready to play.

  • KR-WR Nick Davis, who hasn't played all season because of a shoulder injury, is ready to play.

  • RB Moe Williams has 436 receiving yards, the most by an NFL running back. Williams also has a team-high 655 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 139 carries (4.7). He's second in receiving yards behind Randy Moss. Williams has 41 catches (10.6) and three touchdown receptions.

  • RB-KR Onterrio Smith has 14 returns for 330 yards (23.6) since taking over the primary kickoff return job three weeks ago. His longest returns in each game were 34, 27 and 46. The 46-yarder is the second-longest of the season behind John Avery's 48-yarder against Detroit in Week 3.

  • CB Denard Walker, the Vikings' prized offseason free-agent acquisition, lost his starting job to Ken Irvin two weeks ago. Walker was demoted to the nickel back, which Irvin had played the first eight games. Walker had three tackles in his first game in that role, but no tackles and no other statistics last week against Oakland.

  • CB Ken Irvin has had five tackles in each of his two starts the past two weeks. In his first game as a starter, he had five solo tackles against the Chargers. That matched the season-high total of Denard Walker, who lost his starting job to Irvin because he was missing too many tackles.

  • NT Fred Robbins has 22 tackles, including three for losses. He's on pace for 35 tackles, five for losses. He had 41 tackles, including a team-high seven for losses last season. Robbins recovered a fumble for the first time in his four-year career last week against the Raiders.

  • Owner Red McCombs was ill Sunday and had to watch the Raiders game from his bed in San Antonio. On Monday, he threw his support — sort of — behind quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who had five of the team's six turnovers in a 28-18 loss. "It just seemed Daunte was a little overheated or something. That interception on the second play of the game [that was returned for a touchdown] sure didn't help. It just seems Daunte is so excitable sometimes. But even with a start like that, he still threw for almost 400 yards. He's the most competitive dang guy you can imagine."

  • Kicker Aaron Elling was back on the practice field working on his game Monday morning. There was no scheduled practice, and no other players or coaches were around. Only reporters making their way to coach Mike Tice's press conference. Elling missed field goals of 39 and 44 yards against the Raiders the previous day. He had missed only three field goals in the first nine games, and only two of those were inside of 50 yards. "I'm going to get better and get some confidence back," Elling said. "Things looked good. It just didn't happen on Sunday. But hey, we'll get it going."

  • The Vikings have installed a new surface in their indoor practice facility that is expected to keep the players fresher late in the season. The old hard surface was ripped out and the new AstroPlay surface was installed. It's the same surface that will replace the Metrodome's hideously hard surface next season. Coach Mike Tice said the new surface won't be as hard on the players' legs because sand, shredded rubber and synthetic blades of grass make for a natural-grass feel.

  • WR Randy Moss has 63 receptions for 1,024 yards (16.3) and eight touchdowns in 11 games against Detroit. His 72-yard reception from Gus Frerotte in Week 3 this season was his longest against the Lions.

  • QB Daunte Culpepper has completed 111 of 166 passes (66.9) for 1,385 yards, nine touchdowns, five interceptions and a 98.1 passer rating in six games against the Lions. He completed 7 of 13 passes for 105 yards and rushed for two touchdowns before leaving late in the second quarter at Detroit earlier this season.

  • The Vikings are considering moving their training camp, which has been in Mankato, MN, for the past 39 seasons. Mankato, Duluth, MN and Sioux Falls, SD are the finalists the Vikings will choose from, possibly by the end of November. Sioux Falls has made the best pitch financially, but moving the team out of the state would cause political ramifications at a time when the team is trying to work with lawmakers to get a new stadium.

    Coach Mike Tice is 7-3 against NFC North teams and 5-12 against the rest of the NFL. He's 3-0 against the Lions, 2-1 against Chicago and 2-2 against Green Bay.

    BY THE NUMBERS: Minus-6 — The Vikings' turnover ratio during their four-game losing streak. They were plus-13 during their six-game winning streak to open the season.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "From what I saw on TV, we played hard. We played tough." — Vikings owner Red McCombs on the 28-18 loss to the Raiders. McCombs watched the game from his home in San Antonio because he was ill. The Vikings haven't won since McCombs addressed the players after the Giants home game and told them they had "humiliated" the team and themselves.

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