Anderson Fate Decided Today

Kicker Gary Anderson has been playing in the NFL for 20 seasons. Whether he plays a 21st year will likely be decided today.

To put the career of Gary Anderson into perspective, consider this: As a rookie with the Steelers in the strike-shortened season of 1982, Anderson missed his first paycheck on games scheduled to be played on Sept. 23, 1982. On that same day, new Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie celebrated his third birthday.

Anderson is used to such comparisons. As a veteran of three decades of the NFL, he has seen many of the greats come and go and has been able to include himself as one of those players over his 20 NFL seasons. His deadly accuracy has put him in the record books and makes him a solid Hall of Fame candidate.

However, the NFL is a league that allows past accomplishments to overshadow the here and now, and Anderson will likely learn today if his fate as an NFL player is done or if he has a 21st NFL season in front of him.

Coach Mike Tice has agonized over the decision to keep Anderson or let him go. The recently concluded minicamp was intended to find out whether Anderson will have a roster spot or not and, if the indications VU has heard are accurate, Anderson may be back for another year.

With the loss of Mitch Berger, who handled kickoff, punting and holding chores, the Vikings found themselves with a roster quandry -- do you keep two pure kickers on the roster? The only way that would happen is if the Vikings could find a long snapper who was guaranteed a roster spot. Brody Heffner-Liddiard was a pure long snapper last year and Anderson's and Liddiard's fates have been linked because of the current special teams situation.

Tice and his staff were impressed with the job Cory Withrow, the backup center guaranteed a spot on the roster, did in minicamp and the question now is whether that confidence will result in Withrow being given the long-snapping job when the games are for real and every snap is critical.

That decision is expected today. If the Vikings are content with Withrow as the long snapper, Anderson will be back and another player, perhaps Kyle Ashe, who used the minicamp as his team tryout, will be signed to handle kickoffs. If not, the team will be forced to release Anderson and sign a new kicker, likely free agent Doug Brien -- who can handle both kickoff and field goal duties.

Tice has made some tough decisions in his short tenure as coach. At the draft, he told VU the Anderson decision will be a very difficult one for him to make. But, regardless of what he decides, it's likely to happen soon as the Vikings move ahead and prepare for the 2002 season -- with or without Anderson.

* Miami imports Kenny Mixon and Lorenzo Bromell both impressed Vikings coaches with their fiery attitudes. Both were in the middle of some scraps after plays during the minicamp and were exactly what Tice and defensive coordinator Willie Shaw were looking for in trying to build a defense with an attitude.
* As of now, Don Morgan is listed as the starting free safety for the Vikes, but that is expected to change before the season starts, according to what team sources were telling VU Sunday.
* Shaw was happy with what he saw from the defense at minicamp, which is a good sign. When the regular season opens, the team is expected to have 10 new starters on defense and the priority is on stopping the run. The Vikes were 30th in total defense last year and tied for last vs. the run -- allowing a heinous 4.8 yards per rush last year.
* While the Vikings are expected to make a serious run for WR Derrick Alexander or one of the other veteran wide receivers cut loose June 1, the team was pleasantly surprised by the impressive showings of second-year WR Cedric James and undrafted rookies Kelly Campbell and Nick Davis.
* A name to remember -- Iowa RB Jeremy Allen. The 241-pound undrafted rookie opened some eyes at minicamp, including those of Tice. With the Vikings likely to reduce the number of running backs on the roster this year by going to a one-back set, the competition will be stiff and Allen is emerging as a darkhorse candidate to earn a spot on the final cutdown roster.

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