Punter Bennett Not Worried

Darren Bennett's job is on the line after a poor performance Friday night, but the veteran punter didn't sound concerned when talking about it Sunday. And the Vikings are talking about working Matt Birk back into the lineup. Plus, get more notes from Sunday's return to practice.

Darren Bennett averaged only 31.5 yards on two punts during Friday's preseason game against Kansas City, and the only one hit well was called back because of penalty.

But the veteran punter isn't concerned, now that coach Mike Tice has declared the job wide open.

"No worries," he said with his Aussie accent.

Bennett, who averaged 39.3 yards per punt last season, had been having a good training camp, but he was booed loudly by the Metrodome crowd after a 29-yard punt that went out of bounds at the 40-yard line.

"I was trying to be too fancy," he said.

Tice said he had a conversation with Bennett, expressing the need for consistency. For now, Travis Dorsch, who played in NFL Europe, will get more of a look.

"The biggest thing with Darren is that we don't punt a lot, so he's got to be ready to punt when he's called upon," Tice said. "And it's got to be a good punt every time."

Bennett said he's not concerned with job security.

"I don't compete with other people, I compete with myself," Bennett said. "I set high standards, and if I don't meet them, I'm disappointed."

Offensive line concerns

Tice has expressed disappointment in the middle of the offensive line, from its toughness to its communication, but that could change when All-Pro center Matt Birk goes through his first padded practice Sunday afternoon. Birk was activated Wednesday from the physically-unable-to-perform list but did not dress for Friday's game.

"We want to make sure we don't rush it," offensive line coach Steve Loney said. "We want to make sure he's comfortable. The timing, the knocking the rust off ... I think that will be a fairly quick process. It's not something that has to be done tomorrow."

Tice said that Birk is questionable for Friday's preseason game at the New York Jets.

Defense gets high marks

Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said he hadn't had a chance to view game tape, but his feeling was pretty good about how his unit played Friday.

"They played hard," said Cottrell, who was out of town over the weekend to attend a funeral. "We still need work getting off blocks, but the effort was very good."


Backup center Anthony Herrera was hospitalized early Sunday morning with a leg infection.

Safety Willie Offord was gone to be with his wife for the birth of their child.

Receiver Kelly Campbell missed another practice with a quad injury, and Tice said the injury is hurting his chances of making the team.

"I don't see him playing this week," Tice said. "That's not good, that's not good for him, either."

Cornerback Fred Smoot, center Kyle Schmitt and tight end Richard Angulo returned to practice Sunday, though there was no contact during the special-teams workout.

Receiver Troy Williamson spent most of the one-hour practice on an adjacent field, catching passes from backup quarterback John Bowenkamp.

More money, more jobs

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who received a restructured contract last week, had some fun near the end of Sunday morning's practice fielding punts.

He missed the first one and barely caught the next, which drew applause from the nearby fans and other teammates.

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