Mike Tice did not address the media after practice for the second straight day, but the painfully obvious missing player was running back Onterrio Smith. Smith attended developmental camp on Monday but did not answer any questions surrounding his infamous Whizzinator incident, when he was detained by airport police before the NFL Draft in April and found to be carrying the product that is designed to fool drug tests.
But his absence Tuesday created more opportunities for other running backs, like rookie Ciatrick Fason.
Whether Smith will be active this season or not, his precarious position in relation to the suspended list may have contributed to the Vikings drafting Fason out of the University of Florida in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. It also might have increased their interest in trading up from the No. 7 overall pick to try to obtain either of the two heralded Auburn running backs, Ronnie Brown or Carnell Williams. The Vikings were unable to reach a trade to select either of those two backs, and both were off the board by the time the Vikings' seventh overall pick was executed.
Instead, the Vikings traded up in the fourth round, giving up their original fourth-round pick as well as their fifth-rounder, to obtain Fason.
With Smith's absence from Tuesday's practice, Fason received more repetitions. If Smith is back at practice Wednesday, Fason's work may be scaled back.
Defensive players were also taking advantage of the holes left by absent veterans. In place of Williams was Ralph Brown, a cornerback obtained last season who contributed in nickel and dime defenses and was a solid special teams player. In place of Chavous was Willie Offord. Both replacement players impressed Cottrell.
"Willie (Offord) has done a great job. You know, you hear him. He's really vocalizing," Cottrell said. "Like in the first minicamp he went over and grabbed one of the guys and he said, ‘You're lined up (in the wrong place) … get over here.' Willie went over there and did a good job and he went over there and got some guys lined up. So he's a guy that really stands out as a guy who's doing a real good job for us.
"Ralph Brown has done a good job. He's had a good minicamp and he's continued on with it right now in developmental camp. He's done a fine job for us. "
When the opportunity knocks, the backups have opened the door. But what does the absence of Chavous and Williams do for the overall defense?
"It's a little worry, but it's not something that's going to totally devastate us right now," Cottrell said. "We're hoping that they'll get everything worked out and we'll just go on. That's all I can do."