Chris Liwienski not only has lost his job as the Vikings' starting left guard, he won't even be on the active roster for Monday night's game at Green Bay.
Coach Mike Tice announced Thursday that Toniu Fonoti will start at that spot against the Packers and that Anthony Herrera will serve as the backup. Liwienski has been the starter all season, but the coaching staff hasn't been pleased with his performance. Part of the problem stems from training camp, when Liwienski suffered a sprained left shoulder and developed some bad habits as a result.
"I brought Chris Liwienski in here in 1998," said Tice, who served as the Vikings' offensive line coach before taking over as head coach at the end of the 2001 season. "I developed him personally. ... Obviously I adore the guy. (But) he is not having a good year, so I have to make something happen."
That something will be giving Fonoti his first action since he was acquired from the San Diego Chargers at the trading deadline last month.
Fonoti suffered a fractured left hand while with the Chargers and has been receiving treatment for that injury. The 6-foot-4 lineman also has been trying to reduce his weight after tipping the scales at 404 pounds when he reported to the team.
The Vikings initially said they wanted Fonoti to get down to 370 pounds before playing him, but he appears to be heavier than that. Tice figured him at 386ish on Friday. Tice said Fonoti's conditioning is "probably not real great, but I'm not going to continue down the same road we've continued down."
That isn't good news for Liwienski, who could find himself on the bench for the remainder of the season. After all, Tice is going with a player who he admits isn't familiar with the system.
"Does he know the offense?" Tice said of Fonoti. "No, but what is the difference right now based on what I'm seeing on tape? We might as well throw him in there and see how it goes."
Time will tell whether the earful Packers coach Mike Sherman gave Ahmad Carroll on Wednesday will benefit the struggling second-year cornerback in the long run.
As first-year defensive coordinator Jim Bates sees it, it's critical Carroll starts to show that he's heeding the not-so-pleasant message in the remaining seven weeks of the season.
"If (NFL cornerbacks) haven't gotten it by the third year, usually they don't get it (at all)," said Bates, a coach in the league for 15 years. "After you go three years, it's been my experience that they're never going to get it."
Having put up with wearisome inconsistencies in Carroll's play thus far in 2005, Bates can't be sure the team's 2004 first-round draft pick won't be another of the myriad would-be standouts who couldn't make the grade covering receivers.
"We just have to wait and see," said Bates, with little conviction in his voice.
Carroll's performance in the Packers' 33-25 upset win at Atlanta last Sunday was a microcosm of the roller-coaster ride he's taken the Packers on since his rookie year.
He committed his 11th penalty of the season, eight of which have been enforced, when he was called for pass interference on a long throw in the second quarter. The Falcons capitalized on the big chunk of free yardage with a tying touchdown.
Carroll later redeemed himself with a nicely executed strip of the football from receiver Roddy White late in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Nick Barnett recovered it and had a long return that set up the game-clinching touchdown.
However, on the same play as the fumble, Carroll decided to stand near the Atlanta sideline and stare down its players and coaches, rather than running to possibly throw a block for Barnett.
Consequently, an agitated Sherman summoned Carroll to his office when the players reported back to team headquarters Wednesday morning and reprimanded him with a stern lecture of about 20 minutes.
Carroll said later that he was at fault for going overboard with what was perceived as taunting, though he wasn't penalized for his display. He apologized to Sherman and teammates and vowed to not let it happen again.
The greater concern Sherman and the other coaches have of the temperamental Carroll, however, is his maddening unpredictability when the ball is thrown his way.
"He has to be more consistent," Sherman said tersely, then added, "I want to see him be more consistent as a player. I think he has the ability to. There's times that he plays very well, and there's other times that he outthinks himself. But I want to see him be more consistent."
Carroll will remain the starter opposite Al Harris, but it's clear he must quickly restore the coaches' confidence in him to keep the job. His aggressiveness has done him and the team more harm (28 penalties) than it has done them good (three interceptions) in his brief career.
For his part, Carroll said he must finally become the week-to-week playmaker he was drafted to be, not a chronic troublemaker.
The former track standout at Arkansas recognizes where things have gone wrong.
"I'm just not trusting me being there," Carroll said. "(Cornerbacks coach Lionel Washington) asked me, ‘Do you realize how fast you are?' And, I said, ‘No,' because anytime somebody's got a step on me, I don't think about catching up. I'm thinking about not allowing him to catch the ball. But a lot of times, if I just turn and look, I can get an interception."
If Thomas doesn't play, it's possible Na'il Diggs would take over at Thomas' spot. Diggs split reps at his strong-side position and on the weak side Thursday. Diggs returned to game action last Sunday after being out since Oct. 3 with a torn medial collateral ligament, but he wasn't in the starting lineup. Paris Lenon remained the starter on the strong side for the fourth straight game.
Another candidate to replace Thomas on the weak side is rookie Roy Manning, who took some reps there with the No. 1 unit Thursday.
Receiver Reggie Harrell and tight end Lyonel Anderson were released from the practice squad.