The 2006 version of the Minnesota Vikings is certainly different than previous renditions. On the field and on the coaching sidelines, new faces crowded the landscape of the Winter Park indoor practice facility. The changes were evident all around.
New head coach Brad Childress sent his message to the team last night.
His message was: "Just the way we are going to do business around here, that's all, just my expectations for their standard of performance."
CHANGES ON THE FIELD
On the offensive line, as first reported by scout.com, Anthony Herrera and Marcus Johnson were the starters at right guard and left guard, respectively. Adam Goldberg, Chris Liwienski (now wearing jersey number 67 after the acquisition of Steve Hutchinson, who is wearing Liwienski's old 76) and Jason Whittle back up at guard while Mike Rosenthal and Mark Wilson, a practice squad player last year, back up at tackle.
Center Matt Birk has been cleared to practice fully.
"He did everything that we asked him to do today," Childress said. "Although we are pulling off, we're finishing plays but we're trying to respect the guys. We don't want piles, we don't want tangles, but he was involved in everything from one-on-one to all of the team sessions."
Richard Owens, a tight end last year, switched jersey numbers and responsibilities, wearing number 33 and working with the fullbacks and running back.
With Chester Taylor as the starter at running back, Mewelde Moore participated in the individual drills but wasn't able to catch a ball as he recovered from wrist surgery.
On defense the line and linebackers were busy switching positions. While Kenechi Udeze, who has been working to recover from microfracture surgery, was at left end and Erasmus James at right end, the second line was busy rotating at end and tackle. Kevin Williams and Pat Williams remain the starters inside, but the rest of the defensive linemen rotated between tackle and end.
The same was true at linebacker. The only player limited to one position was newly acquired Ben Leber, who remained on the strong side. E.J. Henderson, Dontarrious Thomas and Napoleon Harris moved from weakside to middle linebacker, depending on the situation.
Fred Smoot was in his familiar right cornerback spot, but he was donning jersey number 21 instead of last year's 27. Safety Corey Chavous, now with the Rams, wore 21 last year.
Second-year player Dustin Fox, who spent last year on injured reserve, was playing cornerback instead of his listed position of safety.
Safety Willie Offord didn't take part in the drills while still recovering from a torn ACL last year. He was wearing a brace, but didn't participate in the physical activity. Head coach Brad Childress said Offord should be better for the camp next month.
The first practice and the new regime Friday was an adjustment for everyone, players and coaches alike.
"I think the important thing that our guys have learned over the last couple of weeks is that everybody teams differently," Childress said. "Everybody is motivated differently. Some people learn by seeing, some people learn by a diagram, some learn by a walk-through, and it's up to our coaches to ascertain how it is every one of those guys is motivated and how it is that every one of those guys learns. I think they did a good job of that."
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