A Jones For Opportunity

While the Vikings would have appreciated seeing Brian Williams opposite Antoine Winfield during the full preseason, the trickle-down effect of Williams' injury gave Rushen Jones an opportunity to impress and set big goals. Plus, get the offensive and defensive players' view on the new emphasis on illegal contact.

Rushen Jones can point to two factors that have aided his elevation up the Vikings' depth chart at cornerback. First was an opportunity provided from a teammate missing time because of injury. Second was an unofficial apprenticeship most young defensive backs undergo with Antoine Winfield as a teammate.

Even though Brian Williams is working his way back into the lineup, players like Jones and Rhett Nelson were afforded valuable plays during training camp to not only prove their mettle but also gain invaluable experience.

"Myself and Rhett Nelson have learned a lot. … Getting playing time has helped tremendously," Jones said. "As a young guy, the more experience you get, the better you'll be."

Jones also points to Winfield's leadership that has given all of the young cornerbacks an example to follow. "He was a nickel [cornerback] in [Ted] Cottrell's defense in Buffalo," Jones said. "He's helped me a lot with that and made the transition a lot easier."

It is common for defensive backs to walk with a swagger. Any member of a secondary (and most in the NFL) talks the talk. Jones hopes the Vikings can walk the walk and elevate their pass coverage unit into one of the best in the league.

"That's the goal," Jones said. "We want to be the best secondary in the league."


Players' feelings vary regarding the new emphasis on a rule that forbids any contact by pass defenders after 5 yards. Most are waiting to see how the officials enforce the rule over several games.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper salivates. "The game is so physical and defensive backs play a very physical game," he said. "If guys can't put hands on Randy or Nate [Burleson] or Kelly [Campbell], that will make things tough on them."

Head coach Mike Tice was well-guarded with his analysis of the new rule. "I don't want to say what I really think about it because I've been given a letter from the league about coaches not commenting on it," he said. "I want to see it be called against [defenders of] our football team. I'm just looking for officiating consistency."

Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson said it will alter his approach when he defends tight ends. "It's going to take some getting used to," he said. "It's just a matter of changing your technique as far as putting your hands on them. Tight ends coming at you full speed … you can't touch them."

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