Burleson Still Showing Improvement

Wide receiver Nate Burleson enters his first season as the team's No. 1 wide receiver, and even players on the other side of the ball are recognizing his continued improvement. Plus, head coach Mike Tice puts a wrap on training camp, his special teams and gives a quick injury update.

One player you notice almost every day at practice is Nate Burleson, whether it be leaping high for a pass or diving to get the ball. Now with Randy Moss gone to Oakland, Burleson is blossoming into the type of top-flight receiver the Vikings will need.

"Nate's had a very fine camp," coach Mike Tice said. "He's obviously a playmaker, he plays with a lot of confidence, works extremely hard.

"He's got everything you want in an elite receiver. He showed that the other night."

Burleson, now in his third season since being drafted in the third round from the University of Nevada, has been the best player in training camp, seemingly making one or more highlight catches each practice. He capped the Vikings' opening drive in Friday's preseason game against Kansas City with a 33-yard touchdown from Daunte Culpepper, taking a pass over the middle and weaving through the defense into the end zone.

"He's definitely gotten a lot better," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "His technique, he's more aggressive. He's playing with a lot more confidence. I think last year was a breakout year for him."

Burleson made 76 receptions for 1,116 yards, starting all 16 regular-season and two playoff games.

"I try each day to work on my craft, and the consistency of it," he said.

Camp ends

Tice said that he was pleased with his team's effort at training camp, which ends Wednesday afternoon. He reiterated his desire to keep his team in the training-camp mode an extra week, and that Minnesota State, the city of Mankato and the Vikings are in discussion about extending the stay next summer.

"I certainly would like to be here another week with access to the dorms and those things," Tice said.

When the Vikings return from Friday's preseason game at New York, the team will practice at its headquarters in Eden Prairie, which is not equipped to handle 80 or more players. Tice said he's pleased with what his team accomplished in camp.

"The guys worked extremely hard and stayed focused throughout the course of three weeks," he said.

"Injury-wise, we were pretty fortunate, pretty blessed. We had some guys nicked up, no one really long-term that we were counting on to help us in the early part of the season."

Special teams was special

One area of emphasis during camp has been special teams, which Tice said has shown much improvement, from the kicking to coverage.

"We're further along than at any point, we're certainly more focused than at any point we've been over the last four camps," he said. "I like the way we're progressing."

Injury update

Tice said that center Anthony Herrera is still battling a leg infection and hasn't improved much since being hospitalized Monday. Herrera has been moved to a hospital in the Twin Cities.

Cornerback Fred Smoot returned to practice but worked on the side, as did receiver Troy Williamson. Neither is expected to play Friday.


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