The Final Countdown

With the first practice of training camp set for Saturday, the Vikings have several key rookies that remain unsigned, but are expected in by the time the first whistle blows.

Most of the talk about the changing face of the Vikings has been centered on the new defensive replacements, but there are at least four rookies that are expected to make an immediate impact of some kind this season.

But with the weeks turning to days and the days turning to hours until the start of training came at 8:45 a.m. Saturday, the Vikings are still scrambling to get them signed.

Troy Williamson has received the most attention since draft day -- a player taken higher than many people thought because of his breakaway speed. While coach Mike Tice insists he'll be brought along slowly, don't buy into that notion. The sooner Williamson gets on the field, the better, according to insiders at Winter Park.

Erasmus James is another interesting player. At this point, Tice is saying he expects James to be a pass-rush specialist on the lines of Lance Johnstone. But the truth is, he is expected to fight it out with Darrion Scott and could be starting by the regular season opener.

The same is true for guard Marcus Johnson and RB Ciatrick Fason -- both of who will be listed as backups, but, if they can make an early impression, will be hard to keep off the field.

With four rookies potentially joining the starting lineup, this week could be as critical as any during the year. The Vikings have assembled a very strong team this year and need everyone in camp. Don't be surprised if the signings start as early as today.

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