Moore Expected To Get First Start

After a slew of injuries and an anticipated suspension at running back, it is looking like fourth-string, fourth-round running back Mewelde Moore will be the Vikings' starter Sunday in Houston.

Rookie running back Mewelde Moore is expected to get his first start Sunday at Houston as a result of another string of injuries to the Vikings.

Two weeks ago, running back Michael Bennett told VU he was ready to play against Chicago. Last week, the Vikings sent Bennett to Cleveland to see a specialist and get medical clearance to start practicing. He received that clearance, but in his first practice back with the team last week he tore his right meniscus.

Head coach Mike Tice said Bennett's knee had swelling over the weekend, and now he will be out for another two to four weeks after having surgery Monday.

The disconcerting news continued to roll down on the Vikings Monday afternoon. Onterrio Smith, who had filled in for Bennett to start the season and had amassed 198 yards rushing and 223 receiving, is considering dropping his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. The league has been sitting on Smith's appeal since the season started, and Smith is indicating he might just serve the suspension now instead of being kept in a tenuous waiting pattern.

The Vikings aren't expecting Smith's services this weekend either.

Finally, running back Moe Williams also re-injured his calf and did not practice Monday. He is hoping to be available for some action on Sunday, but it is unlikely he will start.

That leaves Moore, a fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft, to pick up the ball and run with it. To date, Moore has one carry for 8 yards and two catches for 14 yards. Moore averaged 6.1 yards on 17 carries and 9.3 yards on nine receptions during the preseason after a highly productive career at Tulane.

The Vikings are also expected to rely on first-year pro Larry Ned, who averaged 4.0 yards on 27 carries in the preseason.

* Tight end Jermaine Wiggins will be out of Sunday's game as well as he recovers from a broken hand.
* Linebacker Chris Claiborne's calf could be tested out during Wednesday's practice.
* Linebacker E.J. Henderson is out of Sunday's game as he recovers from his knee injury.
* Center Matt is expected to start Sunday while recovering from an ankle sprain.
* In a bizarre story, quarterback Daunte Culpepper has filed an incident report against a former University of Central Florida teammate, albeit a player Culpepper barely knew. According to published reports, Culpepper didn't even know the man's name, but he showed up at Winter Park and another location, which caused concern that the man was looking to reconnect for reasons other than friendship.
* Tight end Jim Kleinsasser, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament last month and was placed on injured reserve, is hoping to be ready to practice during next June's minicamps.
* The NFL fined 15 players for an incident in the Vikings-Bears game on Sept. 26. Nate Burleson, who appeared to be speared by safety Todd Johnson, received the highest fine at $7,500, but Johnson received nothing. Culpepper, center Cory Withrow, wide receiver Keenan Howry, guard Chris Liwienski, tackle Bryant McKinnie and tight end Sean Berton were each fined $2,500 each. Smith was fined $1,000, and wide receiver Randy Moss was fined $5,000. Several Vikings plan to appeal the fines. For the Bears, cornerbacks R.W. McQuarters and Todd McMillon, defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Ian Scott, safety Cameron Worrell and linebacker Lance Briggs were each fined $2,500.

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