Depth Chart Far From Set

The Vikings have mixed and matched lineups throughout camp, and Wednesday showed even more possibilities. Erasmus James spent extra time with his position coach, E.J. Henderson comments on his promotion, a center returns, a guard could return, and a tight end will be limited in Friday's preseason opener. Get a bevy of notes from Mankato.

Erasmus James' first full day at practice involved a little overtime. For about an hour after his teammates had left the field following Wednesday's morning practice, James worked on technique and assignments with defensive line coach Brian Baker.

"Erasmus did a nice job," head coach Mike Tice said. "I'm very happy with the way the team has rallied behind him."

James, who ended a 10-day holdout by signing a contract Tuesday, attended Tuesday night's scrimmage, but didn't participate in the team contact drills. After passing a short conditioning test, running sprints across the field while encouraging teammates lined both sides of his path, James did drills with the defensive linemen.

Henderson promoted

Third-year linebacker E.J. Henderson was rewarded for a strong training camp by being promoted to the first team at weakside linebacker.

The moves pushes Dontarrious Thomas and Raonall Smith down the depth chart, and Rod Davis has been elevated to second-team middle linebacker behind Sam Cowart. However, Henderson would likely return to middle linebacker in the event of an injury to Cowart.

"I'll be on the field so it's a promotion," Henderson said. "But nothing's set in stone."

Henderson started 14 regular-season and both playoff games at middle linebacker last season, but the Vikings acquired Cowart in an offseason trade with the New York Jets. It was a move to get a veteran presence in the Vikings' defense, which Henderson didn't provide last season.

"It's not so much a demotion for Dontarrious," Tice said. "He's worked hard and had a very good camp. He's progressing. E.J. has had an outstanding camp."

Both Cowart and Henderson have played well over the last two weeks, but on a couple of occasions Tice has made it a point to praise Henderson's performance. Tice said he'll leave Henderson at weakside for two preseason games, then reevaluate the situation.

Dixon coming back?

Tice said that after a poor performance by the offensive line Tuesday night, he called a huddle and threatened his players. He said if the line didn't improve, he'd call David Dixon, a Vikings guard for 10 seasons who has not signed with another team.

"I know how to get ahold of him," Tice said. "It's an option."

Kleinsasser's progress

Tight end Jim Kleinsasser, who injured his knee in the season opener last year and had surgery to repair his ACL, was held out of Tuesday night's scrimmage for precautionary reasons. Tice said that Kleinsasser will play a limited number of plays in Friday's preseason opener against Kansas City at the Metrodome.

Birk is back

All-Pro center Matt Birk was activated from the physically unable to perform today, almost a week ahead of schedule. Birk had three hernia surgeries last season, then had offseason hip surgery.

"We're really excited and pleased with that," Tice said.

Missing

Rookie defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, the team's sixth-round draft choice, was excused from camp Wednesday for personal reasons, according to defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.

Cornerback Fred Smoot (calf) and receiver Troy Williamson (Achilles) both suffered minor injuries Tuesday and were held out of practice Wednesday. Tice said that Smoot will not play Friday, but Williamson will.

Pawlenty visits

Gov. Tim Pawlenty stopped by training camp Wednesday to promote a "Safe & Sober" campaign for Southern Minnesota. He was accompanied by Vikings kicker Aaron Elling and several local and state law enforcement officials.


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