Moore Work For Mewelde

Rookie running back Mewelde Moore was just hoping to carve out a role — any role — with the Vikings this season. Now that Onterrio Smith will be suspended and Michael Bennett is injured, Moore's training camp experience will have to translate into a major role in the regular season.

Vikings head coach Mike Tice wouldn't refer specifically to Onterrio Smith's when it became public, but he made the team's contingency plan perfectly clear if there is a suspension to the second-year running back.

"We'll look at No. 30 being the first guy in for Michael [Bennett] to give him a blow just in case that situation plays itself out in a negative sense," Tice said.

Translation: If Smith is out, rookie Mewelde Moore (No. 30) is in.

But now that Bennett is also supposed to miss the regular-season opener after suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Friday night, Moore will get more than just a look. Moore will be forced to be the No. 2 back in the Vikings' regular-season opener against Dallas.

Moore has been impressive so far in training camp. He has shown explosive speed out of the backfield in preseason games, evidenced by a 39-yard touchdown run in the exhibition opener against Arizona. He also gives the Vikings an explosive burst of speed on both the kickoff and punt return teams.

Keenan Howry should be the team's top punt returner, but Moore could be the Vikings' top kickoff returner this season.

"Mewelde has great vision. He sees the opening," special teams coach Rusty Tillman said. "He hits them with quickness and speed and he's a very explosive runner."

Moore enjoys special teams, but it is unclear who Bennett's injury situation will affect Moore's availability to return kicks.

"It's cool to get the opportunity to go there and play," Moore said. "This is the NFL, that's my job — to do whatever it takes. If somebody asks me to go out there and give it all I have, that's what I'll do. If you see me return a kick or a punt, you know I'm going out there full speed ahead and trying to break it loose."

By joining the Vikings' stable of running backs, Moore has had the opportunity to watch and learn. Bennett is a Pro Bowl runner with play-breaking speed. Smith showed that a rookie could create himself a nice niche on a team already talented on offense. Veteran Moe Williams created himself a steady role on the team as well.

Moore hopes to do the same.

"You see how hard these guys work every day so you strive to get better, too," Moore said. "Watching the way they prepare helps me. These guys are the building blocks to my football career. They've helped me lay the foundation for being a running back. I'm happy to be around these guys so they help me mature and become a good professional athlete."

Ironically, just the opposite has come to fruition with Smith's situation. Seeing Smith violating the league's substance abuse policy should serve as a valuable lesson. And for the short-term, Bennett's injury and Smith's suspension also provide playing time for a rookie that a few weeks ago didn't expect much.

"I'm just trying to make sure we don't lose anything because of the situation," Moore said. "I'll go out there and play as hard as I can when my number's called. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I'm not so much concerned with what happens or what people do, I just go out there and give it my best shot."

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