Receiver Turnstile

It's a bit of a change from the past couple of years, but the Vikings appear to have some solid depth at wide receiver. It also looks like they'll need all that depth if the first week of training camp is any indication.

Remember back in May when all the hyperbole surrounded Randy Moss' plantar fasciitis? Will he be able to play this year and, if so, how much?

Moss has been one of the constants during training camp while nearly every receiver expected to contribute this year— sans Nate Burleson — has taken turns on the injury report.

At the start of this week, it's Keenan Howry's turn, along with a little dose of leftovers from No. 2 receiver Marcus Robinson.

Kelly Campbell has moved back into the No. 4 wide receiver role (and No. 3 without Robinson), at least as long as Howry is sidelined with a knee injury. Howry was in shorts observing Monday's practice, but head coach Mike Tice indicated he should be ready to play against Arizona in the preseason opener Saturday evening. He could be held out of practices until then.

It's a bit of a role reversal for the wide receivers. Campbell missed time during the first week of camp while Howry was being touted as moving up the depth chart as the No. 4 receiver. It could signal a back-and-forth battle between the two all season long.

Robinson, meanwhile, has been on and off the field with a hamstring strain, but Moss continued his steady performance with two acrobatic back-of-the-end-zone catches and a strong sustained block during a Daunte Culpepper scramble for a long gain.

Center Matt Birk is on the sidelines at camp in shorts and a t-shirt lately, and Monday he could be seen showing off his rehabilitation program, which consisted of walking up and down the sideline briskly.

In his place, Cory Withrow has looked good, and Tice said Monday that the Vikings are accustomed to shifting their blocking philosophies to protect smaller centers. They did that when Jeff Christy was a Pro Bowl center in the late 1990s.

Withrow is still the Vikings No. 2 center and veteran Billy Conaty appears to be picking up the offense quickly (with help from Birk).

Anthony Herrera is getting some work with the third team at center, but he has also returned to a backup rotation at left guard.

The Vikings' tradition of versatile offensive linemen lives on with Adam Haayer. The steadily progressing big man saw some repetitions with the first-team offense while rotating with David Dixon at right guard, but the Vikings also wouldn't mind seeming him get some work at tackle as well.

Middle linebacker Max Yates has been a surprise impact — literally — in camp and could be making a strong push for a surprise roster spot. Yates is seeing more time backing up E.J. Henderson, making Rod Davis' immediate role with the team a bit more tenuous.

Like Willie Offord and Raonall Smith, Yates seems to be catching on to the requirements of his position in the defense, ahead of the curve he was in last year and even during minicamps this spring.

The experiment with Willie Offord as a nickel linebacker is still in place. Offord's physical style of play could be a natural fit for that role. He has been a hard hitter all camp long.

It was all about tempo Monday. Tice heated things up when he started working the play clock at 25 seconds no matter the situation. That meant the offense had to get in and out of the huddle quickly and the defense had to make its adjustments more quickly.

That wasn't the only attention to detail. During certain situations when the clock favored the offense, players were encouraged to get down before going out of bounds. But the minutia got even finer when players were told to stay down until the defensive player helped them up.

Milking the clock was at a premium.

* While there is some concern over kicker Aaron Elling's unsteady performance over the last four days of camp, another piece of the kicking game almost took a big blow when punter Darren Bennett looked to tweak an ankle during punt block drills. Bennett took a few series off, but there isn't any real concern about it at this time.

* First-round draft pick Kenechi Udeze has been rotating over to left defensive end during nickel situations, with Lance Johnstone coming in at right end. Mike Nattiel and Dontarrious Thomas have been working as the nickel linebackers with the first unit.

* Running back Mewelde Moore has been breaking long gainers during the last week. He did it again Monday, but he was a greeted a few plays later by a hard-charging Yates. The impact could be heard 50 yards away.

* Along with Howry, running back Onterrio Smith could be limited in practice until Saturday's game at Arizona.

* Moe Williams will likely be held out much of the next few days as well. Williams' calf continues to give him troubles.

* Brock Lesnar is seeing a regular rotation now with the third-string defensive line. He has been progressing steadily during training camp and could be a candidate for the practice squad if his improvement continues.

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