NOTEBOOK: Finally, Fason?

Rookie Ciatrick Fason has been saying he's ready to prove himself as an every-down running back for most of the year, but now his head coach sounds ready to give him a chance at some point Sunday. See what each of them had to say this week. Plus, we look at a couple of defensive leaders and the marks they are shooting for in the season finale, as well as what makes Chicago's defensive the best in the league.

Rookie running back Ciatrick Fason has been hoping for a chance to show his stuff all season. Finally, it looks like his head coach is on the same wavelength as Fason in the season finale.

After working himself into the short-yardage role with erratic results – 29 times for 59 yards and three touchdowns – Fason is expected to garner some open-field carries this Sunday against the NFL's top defense.

"We'd like to see if Ciatrick can run the ball from scrimmage and pass protect a little bit - open field and between the 20s, if you will, and in pass protection too," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "When (guys) play on special teams, and Ciatrick been in the right slot on the punt team, they become more confident in their blocking, and I think that's where Ciatrick's at right now."

Actually, Fason hasn't lacked confidence in his ability to pass protect since he joined the Vikings. Since minicamp, he has been telling Viking Update how his experience at the University of Florida should translate into a smooth transition in the NFL.

He tempered that confidence somewhat last week in anticipation of more playing time.

"I learned a lot, but coming from college I knew how to pick up blitzes. But the words they use up here are not the same and that was the biggest adjustment. Now that I picked up the code words, it makes it easier on me," he said.

He's also hoping that by playing more on Sunday in other situations that the Bears won't be able to simply focus on stopping him. As a goal-line back the past month, he felt like teams knew the ball would be handed off to him when he was the in game, eliminating the strategic advantage of an offense.

Plus, Fason believes he a better open-field runner than he is a short-yardage back.

As for Sunday, he's knows exactly how things have worked in Minnesota's backfield this year, so he isn't confident on exactly how much he'll be asked to do.

"I have no idea. I won't know until Sunday. That's how it is around here, you don't know until you get to the game," he said.

Michael Bennett and Mewelde Moore can relate.


The possibility of more playing time for the younger players Sunday could open the door for Adimchinobe "Joe" Echemandu to receive his first regular-season carries as a Viking.

"All I know is that I'll be on special teams, like I was last game, and if I can get to play I'd like to play (on offense)," he said.

Echemandu played less than a third of the games with Cleveland last year, his rookie season, and was basically a third-down back there when Lee Suggs was injured, doing a lot of receiving out of the backfield.

"I really thought I had a good chance to go back there, but the coaching staff was changing," he said. "I think given an opportunity I'm a starting running back in this league. I'm just going to bide my time and keep working hard and hopefully something will happen for me."


Defensive end Lance Johnstone will be going for a milestone against the Bears. Johnstone needs 2.5 sacks to get his third straight season with double-digit sacks.

The 2.5 sacks might be tough to come by against a Chicago offense that is committed to running the ball, but Johnstone has even higher career aspirations.

"My ultimate goal is to break that 100-sack number," he said.

That might be tough to come by as well, considering he is in his 10th professional season already and has 70 sacks so far. At that pace, Johnstone would have to play a little over four years to get there.


Speaking of seasonal milestones, Sam Cowart and Antoine Winfield are engrossed in a tight contest for the team lead in tackles.

Cowart, the middle linebacker, has 96 tackles. Winfield, the cornerback, has 95.

Considering the Bears' penchant for running the ball straight ahead, safety Darren Sharper believes Cowart has the edge in finishing the season as the team leader. However, linebacker E.J. Henderson might have an "outside" chance at catching both of them. Henderson has 90 tackles to date.


Tice used to quote Chicago as being a "tough-guy town."

But, asked what makes Chicago's defense so good this year, Vikings guard Anthony Herrera said it was discipline.

"They all play within the system, that's what makes them so good," Herrera said. "They all play within the system very, very well, knowing what their part is in the defense and they do it to a T.

"I (also) think it's their head coach (Lovie Smith). He went in there and made a lot of guys lose weight. Like Brian Urlacher, he made him lose weight and he made a lot of guys lose weight so they could play in his system. … They've always had the talent – everybody in the league has the talent. It's just about the coaches getting it across to them."

One of those talented guys is defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who was named to the NFC's Pro Bowl team ahead of Minnesota's Pat Williams.

Asked about what makes Harris a Pro Bowl player, Herrera said: "He's an athlete playing D-line, just like Julius Peppers."

Viking Update Top Stories