Vikings Hold Kicking Tryout Today

The Vikings have already released Mitch Berger. Will Gary Anderson be next to exodus the Vikes? That may be, in large part, decided today.

It's almost unheard of for NFL teams to have a cattle call for any position, but the Vikings may be setting a precedent -- as the Metrodome buzzes with activity today.

The Vikings will hold auditions at the Dome today for kickers and punters as the team looks to fill the void left by the departure of Mitch Berger and potential end of Gary Anderson's career -- which spans longer than some of next month's draftees have been alive.

While the Vikings had productive meetings with kicker Todd Peterson and punter Kyle Richardson, an open audition for kicking hopefuls -- ranging from relative nobodies to vested veterans like Tom Tupa -- will be held today under the watchful eyes of Vikings coaches.

Anderson is still hopeful of signing back with the Vikings for another year, but the loss of Berger may preclude that possiblity. Berger was not only a punter, but he was a kickoff specialist and a holder -- meaning his release could result in three spots being open instead of just one. With roster spots always at a premium, the Vikings may not be willing to sign a player simply to be a kickoff specialist in order to keep Anderson. Likewise, having a new kicker (or even keeping Anderson) would require working with a new holder.

Expect to see the Vikings get this part of the equation done before training camp begins -- settling on a kicker they expect to win the job as opposed to an open audition, as well as determining who will be the holder on field goals. While Berger's number against the salary cap was high, he filled a lot of roles that will have to be taken over, which could be a feather in the cap for whomever takes his place as punter ... and holder ... and kickoff man.

MONDAY NOTES
* The Vikings spent the weekend looking to close out a deal with Atlanta LB Henri Crockett. It is expected that if signed, Crockett will take the place of Kailee Wong, who signed with Houston last week. The Vikings are closing in on contract numbers that should get a deal done, but the team isn't in the "dotting the I's" mode just yet.
* Fernando Smith continues to rehab in hopes of returning to the Vikings this season. While his job may be gone, he's hopeful to hook back up in the NFL -- whether with the Vikes or another franchise.
* The Vikings will continue to bring in free agents in hopes of filling enough holes before the college draft to limit their immediate needs. The latest targeted position is a designated pass rusher. VU has been told the top candidates being brought in today include Cincy's Reinard Wilson, Cleveland's Keith McKenzie and Sean Moran of the Rams. VU is hearing that the club expects to sign one of them.
* Also scheduled in today is Green Bay LB Bernardo Harris, who the Vikings believe could be a big contributor if the two sides can agree on a contract number.
* VU is hearing in no uncertain terms that Cris Carter will not return to the Vikings, even though his options now appear to be limited to Cleveland and Miami and that the Vikings could offer him more money than either of his current suitors. Mike Tice intends to talk to Carter this week, but, after his debacle with the Rams, VU is being told that he likely won't even entertain an offer to come back to the Vikings after all but saying he was finished in Minnesota.
* The Vikes could benefit from a new salary cap rule insituted by the NFL. In an effort to keep more veteran players in the league, if a player with five or more years NFL experience is signed to a league-minimum contract of $750,000, he will count only $450,000 against the salary cap, which means teams like the Vikings could bring in a dozen veteran players in hopes of getting four or five that could contribute to the team in 2002.

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