Kelly A Tough Cut

Head coach Mike Tice made a hard decision Thursday when he released offensive lineman Lewis Kelly, and his teammates felt the compassion as well. It is a day filled with roster moves and tryouts.

Veteran offensive lineman Lewis Kelly was released Thursday, and Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice said it was one of the toughest cuts he's ever had to make.

"He's a great young man, I love him to death," Tice said.

Kelly, who was not available for comment Thursday, was one of the rising stars in the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line coming into the 2002 season. But a couple of weeks before the opener, his wife and unborn child both died due to complications in her pregnancy.

"He's been through some trauma in his life," Tice said. "I don't know if his heart was in it or not."

Kelly has struggled to find a role as a backup lineman. With Matt Birk out this week, Kelly was given a shot as the third center, but that wasn't working.

Rookie Anthony Herrera has been used in that role, and on Thursday the Vikings signed veteran Billy Conaty, who spent seven seasons with Buffalo.

"He's been part of our football family for a long time," guard Chris Liwienski said. "It's tough to see him go. I think a lot of guys could see that the passion for football has kind of left him."

* Tight end Jermaine Wiggins missed practice Thursday with a shoulder injury, suffered during the afternoon practice Wednesday. Wiggins said he should be fine after a couple of days rest.

* Receiver Marcus Robinson (leg) and linebacker Mike Nattiel (ankle) both missed practice, as did receiver Kelly Campbell, who is taking care of personal business.

* Receiver Kenny Clark was undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging exam, and Tice didn't sound optimistic about Clark's return. He said the team will hold a tryout Thursday afternoon for rookie receivers: Chris Collins, Tony Johnson and Kevin Wolcott.

* Rookie linebacker Grant Wiley, who suffered a separated shoulder Wednesday, was released. If Wiley clears waivers, Tice said he would be put on injured reserve.

* Cornerback Reggie Austin was signed Thursday to provide some competition for the No. 5 position. "That's one of the areas that I'm not liking the competition," Tice said. "We have to pick it up a little."

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