Offensive Backfield Returns To Form

After a month on the shelf, Onterrio Smith returned to the field Monday night and now looks set as the Vikings' starter ... as long as he performs. The Vikings finally have the full luxury of their deep and talented backfield.

The Vikings' confusion at running back will remain the same this week, despite the anticipated return of Mewelde Moore. Coach Mike Tice announced Tuesday that, based on his performance Monday night, Onterrio Smith will retain the starting job.

While Moore, Michael Bennett and Moe Williams will all have a role in the game plan, Tice feels Smith is the best fit at this point to take on the Packers in a critical NFC North game that likely won't feature Randy Moss.

Sunday will mark the first game this season that the Vikings have had all four of their top running backs available on game day at the same time.

* The linebacker corps should get a boost with the expected return of Chris Claiborne and Raonall Smith. The Vikings looked lost at linebacker Monday, as Peyton Manning picked them apart – three of his four touchdowns went to tight ends in linebacker coverage.
* Moss is listed as doubtful on the early injury report, but isn't expected to play.
* The Vikings have more than a half-dozen kicker candidates prepared to replace Aaron Elling, but the frontrunners are Travis Dorsch and Jose Cortez – both of whom have spent time with the Vikings.
* The Vikings had to promote G/C Anthony Herrera to the 53-man roster because the Panthers made a claim on him. By NFL rule, if another team is willing to put one of your practice squad players on their 53-man roster, you either elevate him to your own 53-man roster or must give him up.
* To make room for Herrera, the Vikings released center Billy Conaty.
* The team wasn't as lucky with safety Omar Celestin. The Jets made a claim on him and got him off the Vikings practice squad. He has been replaced by OL Shannon Snell.
* Michael Bennett suffered what may have been a million-dollar foot injury. Bennett would have been paid a $500,000 bonus this year if he had topped 1,000 yards and a $1.25 million bonus in he had topped 1,200 yards. With his injuries, that seems impossible at this point.

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