Wiley The Numbers Victim

When Onterrio Smith returned from his suspension yesterday, the Vikings needed to release a player to make room for him. That player turned out to be defensive lineman Chuck Wiley.

The return of Onterrio Smith created a problem that the Vikings hadn't originally anticipated — when Smith comes back from his suspension, who has to go via the waiver wire?

As it turned out, it was veteran defensive end Chuck Wiley, who became a victim of roster numbers. When Smith began serving his suspension, the Vikings were able to add a player to the 53-man roster. But, when he returned to practice Tuesday, somebody had to go.

There had been plenty of speculation as to whom the cut player would be. Most thought it boiled down to two players — Billy Conaty and Mike Nattiel. Conaty was originally signed when Matt Birk was injured in the preseason and was brought back when backup Cory Withrow went down to injury. With Withrow ready to return, the feeling was that Minnesota wouldn't keep three centers on the roster. As for Nattiel, he's been called out by Tice and his position coaches and is fighting for his NFL life — making him a natural choice.

Instead, it was Wiley who had to pay the ultimate price for Smith's four-game suspension.

* In addition to cutting Wiley, the Vikings released wide receiver Ryan Hoag and promoted Ben Nelson to the 53-man roster — which some are taking as a sign that Randy Moss won't be playing Monday. Nelson is a more polished receiver than Hoag and, if Moss isn't available, would be the fourth wide receiver option.
* Hoag is expected to clear waivers and be re-signed to the practice squad.
* The Chris Claiborne saga continues. He's already pretty much been ruled out with his calf injury and the best-case scenario calls for his return to action is vs. Green Bay Nov. 14.

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