Camp Winding Down

The report was mostly positive after the Vikings' last intense workout in Mankato Wednesday morning. Head coach Mike Tice gave his review of the camp, a camp-ending prank and his running back situation. Plus, get updates on injuries and the expectations for Friday night's preseason game.

If Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice had been handing out grades after Wednesday's morning practice, he would have given the 2004 training camp in Mankato an A.

Tice said the team accomplished what it set out to do in the nearly three-week camp at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

"It was a very good camp, we improved as a football team," he said after the team's second-to-last practice in Mankato. "We're leaving camp a good football and the guys know that. They're confident about that."

At the conclusion of morning practice, a horde of players chased down first-year lineman Brock Lesnar and piled on for some good-natured fun.

A few of the players counted out a pin while he was down and a couple of more taped his feet together before letting him up.

Lesnar, the former World Wrestling Entertainment champion, came up smiling as he and receiver Kelly Campbell worked to get the tape off his legs.

"Boys will be boys," said a grinning Mike Tice a few minutes later. "I think they just wanted to let Brock know that he's one of the boys before training camp ended."

Veteran cornerback Ken Irvin returned to practice Wednesday after missing two days of training camp. Irvin was excused due to some recent deaths in his family.

Irvin will start at least until Brian Williams returns from his knee injury.

The main goal for the Vikings in Friday's preseason game at Atlanta is to win.

"We want to develop a habit of winning," Tice said. "We want to see crisp plays, we want to improve our return game and continue to improve on our special teams."

Tice also wants to see the offense establish the run more than it did against Arizona.

"But if the run's not there, we're going to throw it," Tice said. "We're not going to force it."

Although safety Brian Russell was given the day off Wednesday to rest a stomach strain, he is expected to play regularly against Atlanta. He was hoping to get into Tuesday's intra-squad scrimmage, but the coaching staff held him out as a precaution.

The only two players who have been ruled out for Friday's game are center Matt Birk (sports hernia) and cornerback Brian Williams (knee).

With a lot of talent and depth at the running back position this season, the Vikings have a simple philosophy for determining who plays:

"I'm going to feed the hot hand," Tice said.

With backs like Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith, Moe Williams and rookie Mewelde Moore in the fold, Tice says determining playing time is a nice problem to have.

"When a guy gets an opportunity, he's going to have to make plays," Tice said. "If he does, then he'll get more plays. If he doesn't, we'll go to someone else.

"Are they all going to be happy? When it's all said and done, probably none of them will be happy, but that's a situation you like your team to be in."

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