Randy Moss smiled while talking to the media. He smiled while talking to head coach Mike Tice during warmups. He smiled while joking with veterans — even new veterans like Sean Dawkins. In fact, there were a lot of smiles at Winter Park Friday for the Vikings' first minicamp.
"I think Randy is having fun, too, and I think he is working hard," Tice said.
And there were a lot of changes, as well. Changes in personnel. Changes in the coaching ranks. Changes all around, really.
One of the biggest changes — besides Tice at the helm — was not having Cris Carter on the field. But it didn't seem to bother Tice, Moss or quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
"I admire Cris very, very much and it is different not hearing him out here," Tice said. Hearing Carter seemed to be a theme Friday when players were asked about his absence.
While not naming Carter, Moss seemed to indicate that a new start was good for everyone. "I think at the beginning of the (2001) season we had a lot of fire, but I think once certain people started bickering and arguing about certain things about the team, then it was hard to be back on track. Like I said earlier about the young guys coming in, you see a lot of young guys with a lot of fire."
Said Culpepper about not having Carter in camp: "It is just a little different. I'm used to seeing him and hearing him. He was a great player here and he will be missed, but we have to move on."
So far, they are. Wide receivers D'Wayne Bates and Sean Dawkins were seeing their first full-team practice time with the Vikings. Bates saw extended time with the first team and Dawkins, signed on Thursday, was doing what he could with the little knowledge of the offense he has.
It was also the first time for rookie first-round pick Bryant McKinnie, who looked very solid in pass protection but out of shape.
"Big fella looked kind of tired, man," Moss said of McKinnie. "I like his size. He seems kind of soft-hearted. Not meaning soft on the field. He seems a soft-hearted-type guy. But I think by seeing a couple of guys pass rush him, he has the dog in him."
Said Tice of McKinnie after the morning session, which ended about 10 minutes late at 12:25 p.m.: "I hope he's not eating lunch. He has probably enjoyed the accolades that have gone with all of the awards he has received and the attention."
It was an obvious reference to McKinnie's conditioning. Although he has the starting job at left tackle, he will have to improve his stamina dramatically in the coming months as he moves away from the college courses to the professional life of an NFL player.
* Vikings legends Mick Tingelhoff and Jim Marshall were at camp helping the offensive and defenisve line, respectively. Both seemed to garner the respect of the players. Tice said Marshall is a little more comfortable with the players because he has been around more than Tingelhoff to this point. Both are expected to continue consulting with the position coaches.
"The first thing they have to do is learn the new rules," Tice said. "Jim said to me the other day, ‘Man, it has changed.' There is no more head-slapping "
A good-natured exchange between Tingelhoff and the offensive linemen had the players reminding the former center that they are now allowed to hold inside the shoulders.
* Instead of the customary five sessions over three days, Tice added a Sunday afternoon session this year. But after a long day of two practices on Friday, the players might be wishing to nix that Sunday afternoon session.
* June-to-be free agent Derrick Alexander is expected to take a physical today for the Vikings.
* Lemanski Hall is starting out ahead of rookie Raonall Smith at weakside linebacker.
* Long snapper Brody Heffner-Liddiard was excused from this weekend's practice in order to get married. In his absence, center Cory Withrow was handling most of the long-snapping duties.
* Kicker Tyler Ashe of Wake Forest is attending minicamp as a workout.
* Running back Rashaan Salaam will visit the Vikings on Monday.
* Sitting out of all the drills were defensive linemen Jeff Hazuga, Willie Howard and wide receiver Kenny Clark, all of whom are recovering from injuries.
* Also not attending were those Vikings in NFL Europe.
* Despite Frank Gilliam's retirement at the expiration of his contract on May 31, he will be doing a lot of traveling and meeting with scouts.
* Carey Scott was moved to free safety about a month ago, and with the Vikings' lack of experience at that position was seeing extended playing time there with the first team. Willie Offord, the third-round draft choice, was the leading strong safety.
* With all the big money being made, a small-time bet was made and won by personnel man Jeff Robinson. He took the green from VU publisher Bob Lurtsema on a missed field goal attempt. VU staffers are hoping it doesn't affect their salaries.
They Got a New Attitude
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