LB Questions Remain

The Vikings have had more than six months to attempt to figure out how they will man their roster heading into the 2006 season. But, with three weeks left until the opening of training camp, linebacker remains an open question.

Over the last couple of years, linebacker has been a sore spot with the Vikings. With the advent of the Cover-2 defense coming to town, new defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin has insisted that his linebackers know all three positions. It would appear that is because there is still no consensus as to who will start and where they'll start.

The strongest candidate to assure himself a starting spot is Ben Leber on the strongside. It has been acknowledged that the Vikes intend to use him at Sam linebacker, but that is just the beginning of the questions.

The key to the linebacker puzzle could lay with rookie Chad Greenway. If Greenway can pick up the system quickly, the plan is to start him at weakside linebacker. In that case, it's likely that E.J. Henderson would be the starter at middle linebacker. But, as of now, Henderson is listed as No. 1 on the Will linebacker slot with Greenway as the No. 2. In that event, the middle linebacker position would be a battle between Napoleon Harris and Dontarrious Thomas -- both of whom struggled in brief attempts at being the Vikings' middle linebacker.

These position battles will be among the highlights of the training camp jockeying that will go on during August. But, with free agency and the draft well behind us and minicamps and a dozen OTA days in the rearview mirror, it would seem there are still more questions than answers when it comes to who will be at the linebacker spots on opening day. As of now, nothing has really been resolved in that regard.

* The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union may not be a completely done deal after all. The six-year agreement, which is slated to run through the 2011 season may in fact only run through 2009. Lawyers for the league and the players association are hammering out the final language of the contract documentation and word is getting out from both sides that there may be a chance that the owners will opt out of the contract by the November, 2008 deadline -- which would trigger an end to the current deal by the end of the 2009 season. It is believed by several sources that the owners are convinced they can't afford the new deal, which gave many monetary concessions to the players.
* The NFL will conduct a supplemental draft of seven college players Thursday. It isn't expected that the Vikings will be one of the teams looking to make a pick among the group, but, if they do take a player, they will sacrifice a commensurate pick in next April's draft. Few teams get too deeply involved in supplemental drafts, but they have had some big-time players make a splash in the past, including Cleveland's drafting of Bernie Kosar via this system.

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