Safety Bradford Starting Quickly

The Vikings started the first of three weeks of developmental camps today, and a few changes could already be seen from their last minicamp.

With a few more additions to the roster since their late-April minicamp, a new jersey here or there was expected today as the Vikings opened the first of 14 days of camps in May and June. While many of the positions remained the same as they were a week after the draft, one new player made an immediate impact.

Safety Ronnie Bradford, wearing number 26, who was acquired on May 15 after five years in Atlanta, was moved into the starting free safety spot. Not that Bradford wasn't expected to eventually move into that spot, but only two weeks after signing he looked relatively comfortable in his duties in the defensive backfield.

"Ronnie Bradford stepped in today and made a couple plays on the ball," head coach Mike Tice said. "I think Ronnie is going to be a great addition to what we're trying to do."

For now, he appears to be the starter alongside strong safety Tyrone Carter. At minimum, Bradford will provide experience in the secondary, especially at safety, where the Vikings lost free safety Orlando Thomas and strong safety Robert Griffith from last season.

That left only Carter, Brian Russell, Don Morgan and Carey Scott as safeties with any experience in the Vikings system — and very little tangible game experience. That has allowed Bradford to step into a leadership position quickly.

"(Bradford) also has played some cornerback and has some versatility. He's smart. And worst-case scenario he shows these young guys how to prepare …" Tice said. "Except for Corey Chavous, I didn't think we had any veteran guys that have played winning football that could come in and show our guys what to do … He made a couple plays on the ball today where I was impressed."

* A happy 70th birthday goes out to long-time trainer/medical adviser Fred Zamberletti.
* A handful of players were missing today, but each called Tice and received excused absences. Among the missing were defensive ends Talance Sawyer and Lorenzo Bromell, quarterback Romaro Miller and wide receiver Chris Walsh.
* With less than 10 minutes remaining in practice this afternoon, wide receiver Randy Moss turned an ankle. By the time practice was done, Moss was skipping on the left ankle and loosening it up.
* Defensive lineman Willie Howard continues to make progress in his recovery from several leg surgeries. He was jogging around the practice fields and beginning to gain more confidence.
* Linebacker Lemanski Hall is still holding down a starting spot on the weak side. Tice said second-round draft choice Raonall Smith will slowly be getting more time as the coaches continue to evaluate the new talent.
* Currently, the first-team defense features Kenny Mixon, Fred Robbins, Chris Hovan and Lance Johnstone (with Bromell's absence) on the line. At linebacker are Hall, Henri Crockett and Patrick Chukwurah, with Chavous and Eric Kelly at cornerback.
* Tice looks to be stepping in for more one-on-one coaching than he did at the first minicamp or than Dennis Green used to do. Tice had some pointers for the offensive linemen and got involved in the execution of the offense.
* Wide receiver Nick Davis switched jersey numbers from 26 (Bradford's number now) to 17.
* Defensive end Chuck Wiley, signed on May 2, is wearing number 67 and playing right end.
* Conditioning was a theme Tice brought up again, as the players ran five 110-yard dashes after practice. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper led his group to the finish on the final leg. However, rookie left tackle Bryant McKinnie was easily the last one of the linemen to finish each time.
* Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and quarterbacks coach Alex Wood also participated in the conditioning.

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