Two Men's Injuries Are Wallace's Opportunity

Butchie Wallace's rapid ascent on the running back depth chart hasn't come on the heels of superstar statistics, but he'll take whatever opportunity he can to try and impress the coaching staff and make the final roster.

Butchie Wallace entered training camp so far down on the depth chart at running back that it was clear there was only one entrance onto the Vikings' regular-season roster. The plaque above that doorway reads "Special Teams."

With two weeks until the season opener it still is unclear if Wallace will be a victim of cuts, designated to the practice squad, or become one of the 53 players still standing when the Vikings open the season Sept. 11 against Tampa Bay.

For now he continues to live in the moment, enjoying every play on the Vikings offense that even includes a handful of carries out of the backfield. With the sudden thinning out of the once overfull Vikings' stable of running backs, Wallace could get a few significant carries. That's right, of the Vikings' healthy running backs — it's becoming a smaller and smaller bunch — Wallace is third on the depth chart.

Michael Bennett has a sprained neck and will miss Friday's preseason game against San Diego. Onterrio Smith, of course, is out for the season. Fourth-round pick Ciatrick Fason is probably out a couple more weeks with a high ankle sprain. That leaves Mewelde Moore as the starter, Moe Williams as the second back, and Wallace in a battle with Adimchinobe Echemandu for No. 3.

For most of this week Wallace has been practicing with the second- and third-team offenses. His new, albeit temporary, roll is welcome. Last year, Wallace's role was mainly as a scout-team running back since he spent the entire season on the Vikings' practice squad.

"I was able to get a different look every week last year," Wallace said. "I think it loosened me up and helped my game a little bit."

Through two games this preseason, Bennett has 12 carries for 19 yards (1.6 avg.), Moore has 11 for 86 (7.8), and Fason has 10 for 74 (7.4). Echemandu has eight for 11 yards (1.4), and Wallace has seven for 24 (3.4).

"It's going well," Wallace said. "Going from the little feedback I get from the coaching staff they like what I'm doing, especially on special teams. "

If he makes the team it will still most likely be through the special teams route. But he wants to get more accustomed to being a ball carrier.

"Personally, I went into camp thinking I needed to get a little more comfortable coming out of the backfield," Wallace said. "As far as I know, I just have to keep working hard and not count the (roster) numbers. It's very hard not to think about it every day. I don't count the numbers, but it's hard not to.

"I see guys getting cut every day."

Wallace has survived so far, but then again, there have only been a handful of players cut. The next two weeks will include roster cutdowns that affect scores of players.

If Wallace doesn't make the team he will likely be re-signed to the practice squad for a second season. Since he was never promoted to the 53-man roster last season, he is eligible to spend one more year on the Vikings' practice squad.

But Wallace isn't thinking that far ahead. No, Wallace is looking forward to Friday when the Vikings offense might call his number earlier than normal.

"You always have to be ready to go," running backs coach Dean Dalton said. "At some point in time all of these guys have been in that role."

Apparently Wallace has been listening to his position coach.

"My job is to be ready at all times so the coaching staff can have enough faith in me to put me in there whenever Michael and Moe and Mewelde are not available," Wallace said. "It's a contact sport. Things just happen. People will get nicked and bruised up.

"If they put me back there, whatever they ask me to do I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. Hopefully, at the end of preseason, the coaches will give me a chance to be a Viking."


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