When the Vikings first hired Ted Cottrell as their defensive coordinator, VU praised the move. While Mike Tice and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had no previous experience at their respective posts in the NFL, Cottrell came to the Vikings with 20 previous years of NFL coaching experience.
It came as little surprise to VU that, when given the latitude to have a voice in decisions on what players to bring in to help his defense, Cottrell made sure the Vikes brought in players he was already familiar with -- from the record-setting outside free agent contract given to Antoine Winfield to the lower-level deals given to Tyrone Carter and Steve Martin.
For those who may have questioned how much of a say Cottrell had, they likely shut up Wednesday when future Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith arrived in Mankato for two days of old-school pass rush instruction for the Vikings defensive line.
Smith, who played 19 seasons and is the NFL's all-time sack leader, came to Mankato as a favor to Cottrell. Smith played under Cottrell with the Bills and the two maintain a strong personal relationship.
VU has been told the player the team would like Smith to spend the most time with is rookie Kenechi Udeze. The Vikings are convinced Udeze can be a difference-making end who can be among the league's sack leaders. It is hoped that with the combination of technique study and urging the players to watch all the film they can, Smith can pass on the knowledge only he possesses to the next generation of defensive ends.
If nothing else, this justifies whatever Cottrell is being paid. Perhaps Red should already be thinking along the lines of a Christmas bonus.
* Chris Claiborne continues to be bothered with a sore Achilles tendon. He had surgery to repair previous a bursa sac on the tendon. VU is being told that, while the team is putting a happy face on the situation -- Claiborne is expected to play Saturday -- the continuing problem with the Achilles is being viewed as a "matter of time" injury -- it's only a matter of time before he suffers a serious problem with it and is sidelined again.
* Lesnarmania is continuing at training camp. This could end up creating its own set of problems. The furor over Lesnar has reached a national scale. If the Vikings go through with their current plan -- practice squad this year, NFL Europe next spring and next summer we'll see -- the attention he is receiving could come back to bite the Vikings. If they have to release Lesnar to re-sign him to the practice squad, another team might jump on him. Don't be shocked to see Denny Green swing over for a grip and grin Saturday. He developed his football training in Arizona and is well known for his journey to the NFL in the Phoenix area.
* Denny may need Lesnar to try to put butts in the seats. Before the first preseason game, he has already lost his two premier offensive players. Despite what Green said about Emmitt Smith being the starter, he realizes Smith's contribution is similar to that of Cris Carter (pre-1999). It is to be a locker room leader and teach the younger players what it takes to be great. Marcel Shipp was going to be his bell cow in the backfield.
That ended last week when it was learned Shipp would be out 2-3 months. That offensive malaise worsened considerably Wednesday when All-Pro receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught 101 passes as a rookie last year, was informed his meniscus tear -- at first thought to be relatively minor -- was much more serious and he will also miss the next 2-3 months.
Maybe Denny knew what he was doing when he took Larry Fitzgerald despite the team taking wide receivers with their first two draft picks in 2003.
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