Who's Hot, Who's Not, Who's Hurt

Randy Moss' availability is the biggest story of the week for the Vikings, but it's not the only personnel decision of note. Get stats on Raonall Smith, Willie Offord, Lance Johnstone, Dontarrious Thomas and more.

The Vikings are wrestling with the decision to rest Randy Moss' strained right hamstring against a Tennessee team they know they can beat at home. Moss has never missed a game in his seven seasons and will be cranky if he isn't suited up. But the best move would be to rest him against the Titans. The Vikings are leaning that way, although they won't make a decision until Friday at the earliest.

"Do we want him (active) in a limited role for three weeks, four weeks, or do we want (to rest him) and have him back in full speed by the Monday night game against the Colts (on Nov. 8)?" Tice said. "I think that's a judgment we're going to have to make."

The Vikings have plenty of weapons to beat Tennessee without Moss. That won't be the case on a Monday night at Indianapolis.


  • LB Raonall Smith is by far the team's most improved player. Injured for much of his first two seasons, the former second-round draft pick finally is healthy in his third season. He leads the team in special-teams tackles with 11. He also will start for the second time in three weeks because weak-side linebacker Chris Claiborne is out with a strained left calf.

  • S Willie Offord has earned his status as special-teams captain. He is second on the team with six special-teams tackles. The only puzzling part about Offord is why he doesn't make tackles at safety the way he does on special teams.

  • LB Dontarrious Thomas deserves a lot of credit for stepping up as the starting middle linebacker in place of E.J. Henderson the last two weeks. Without Thomas, who hadn't played or even practiced in the middle before Henderson was injured, the Vikings would have had to start practice squad player Max Yates or rookie Rod Davis, who isn't nearly as developed as Thomas.

  • DE Lance Johnstone, a situational pass rusher, is quietly having one of the best seasons of any defensive player on the team. He has three sacks and two forced fumbles. The Vikings sometimes give him the freedom to choose his gap and rush from a two-point stance.

  • DT Kevin Williams has 29 tackles, 17 of them solo. That's 22 tackles more than fellow starting DT Chris Hovan, including 14 solos.

  • K Aaron Elling spent the first week of the season with the Titans. He handled the placekicking and also punted because of an injury to P Craig Hentrich. Elling was released a couple of days later when K Gary Anderson once again came out of retirement to play for the Titans. The Vikings then signed Elling to handle kickoffs.

  • Well, coach Mike Tice didn't get his wish. Not only did the league not "fine the snot" out of Kelly Campbell, as Tice had pleaded publicly after Campbell's second taunting penalty in four weeks, it didn't fine Campbell at all. Campbell still says he won't stop dancing and celebrating after touchdowns. "It's a Campbell virus," he said.

  • With a 6.7-yard average per rush against the Saints, the Vikings set an NFL record with 15 consecutive games with a rushing average of 4.0 or better.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I try not to do too much out there. Just let the offense come to me. Just basically let the offense run itself. Like I say, I'm just driving the car." QB Daunte Culpepper on his record-setting five-game start to the season.

  • WLB Chris Claiborne aggravated his left calf strain in the Saints game, missed practice Wednesday and won't play. Claiborne, a notoriously slow healer, tried to come back too soon. Raonall Smith, who started in place of Claiborne at Houston two weeks ago and played well, will start. Smith, a disappointment in his first two seasons, finally is healthy and playing well enough for the Vikings not to miss a hobbled Claiborne.

  • C Cory Withrow did not practice Wednesday and is expected to miss another game as he recovers from torn knee cartilage. Starter Matt Birk returns last week and is healthy again. Billy Conaty will serve as a capable backup until Withrow returns.

  • CB Brian Williams (strained right foot) practiced and is expected to be fine in time for Sunday's game. He should start.

  • RB Michael Bennett, who has missed the entire regular season because of injuries to his right knee, returned to practice Wednesday. If he doesn't suffer a setback — a big if — and he's at full speed, he will give the offense a boost on the perimeter in a limited role. Rookie Mewelde Moore will start.

  • MLB E.J. Henderson (knee) returned to practice after missing the last two games, barring injury. He will play in the base defense. Rookie Dontarrious Thomas, who replaced Henderson while he was injured, will play MLB in the nickel defense.

  • Viking Update Top Stories