Vikings Adjust To Post-Moss Era

While Randy Moss isn't in Minnesota, he is still the subject of questions to current Vikings. While excited to show what they can do without Moss, at least one receiver says it's hard to see Moss on another team.

The Vikings opened training camp without Randy Moss for the first time since 1997, but he was still the topic of nearly every conversation last weekend in Mankato, Minn.

"There's a lot less excitement as far as the receiving corps because we're a lot more mellow," said Nate Burleson, who replaces Moss as the team's No. 1 receiver. "It's hard to see him on another team and in another jersey, but it's part of the game. We have a lot to prove. I'm just excited to go out there and make some plays. I know the rest of the offense feels that way. We'll show the nation what we can do."

The new-look Vikings offense began training camp without receiver Troy Williamson, the seventh overall draft pick and the heir apparent to Moss at least in terms of being a deep threat. However, Williamson did agree to a contract Sunday and is expected to be in camp soon. Williamson, who runs a 4.34 40-yard dash, was selected with a draft pick that the Vikings acquired from Oakland as part of the Moss trade on March 2.

Because Williamson is young and raw coming out as a junior from South Carolina's conservative offense, he couldn't afford not to report on time. He's already starting out as the fourth receiver, at best.

"I think it's important that Troy get here soon," Burleson said on the first day of camp. "He's obviously a big-time pick, and he's going to do many things for us. But we do have five guys here who are ready to go."

Besides Burleson, who led the Vikings with 1,006 receiving yards in 2004, the Vikings also have Marcus Robinson as their No. 2 receiver and free-agent pickup Travis Taylor as the slot receiver. The speedy little Kelly Campbell is No. 4 until Williamson beats him out. Robinson is the biggest of the receivers at 6-3. He's about as good as Moss when it comes to fade routes near the goal line. But he certainly isn't the deep threat that Moss is.

Taylor is the offensive player to watch this summer. A former 10th overall selection of the Ravens, Taylor has been a disappointment up to this point. This is his opportunity to prove that his lack of success was more the product of playing with inferior QBs in Baltimore's run-oriented offense. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper already seems to have developed some on-the-field chemistry with Taylor.

The tiny Campbell is a home-run threat because of the league's emphasis on penalizing downfield contact on defenders. However, for Campbell to strike, he needs single coverage, a perfectly thrown ball and can't be bumped at the line of scrimmage. That was easier to accomplish when Moss was on the other side of the field.

"Certainly, this offense is going to be a little different without (Moss)," Culpepper said. "But we have to move on."

Culpepper has always been focused. But he seems to have turned it up a notch this summer. Maybe it's because he knows more will be expected of him without Moss and former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who left for Miami after last season.

"Everyone knows he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league," Campbell said. "As long as we have Daunte and everyone is on the same page, I think we're going to do well. We're not going to lose a beat. We're just going to crescendo and take it up a notch."


  • New owner Zygi Wilf recently spent a day with QB Daunte Culpepper at Culpepper's offseason home in Florida. The QB said the owner showed the kind of excitement one would expect from a fan. "(Wilf) is a very smart businessman," Culpepper said. "He's very successful, and him and his family want to win a world championship. I'm very clear on that now."

  • Wilf took out full-page ads in two Twin Cities newspapers on the first day of training camp to thank fans for welcoming the Wilf family. He also hailed the start of a new era in Vikings football.

    "The message is that it is their club; I'm just the owner," Wilf said. "I want to make sure that I do the best for them."

    Wilf also paid about $100,000 to keep the group that's running camp from charging $5 a head to cover expenses.

    "I know that winning is very important, but making sure that they have access to everybody is very important," Wilf said.

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