When the assembled media descends on Mankato starting Friday, they will be given a packet of information about the 2002 Vikings. For those unfamiliar with regularly hanging around the team, this will be required reading, since there are so many changes on the roster.
However, one interesting development will be when the depth chart is shown in practice. While it may not last -- VU is hearing strong indications it won't -- there were two very intriguing decisions made by Tice when he assembled his opening day depth chart.
First is at wide receiver. Derrick Alexander, who many still firmly believe will be the starter opposite Randy Moss, is listed as the No. 2 wide receiver behind D'Wayne Bates. The reason given to VU for this juxtaposition is that Bates has worked out with Daunte Culpepper and Todd Bouman much more extensively during the team's offseason training sessions and has a better handle of the offense at this point than does Alexander, who came in much later in the offseason.
The other depth listing that perked some ears has Lance Johnstone listed ahead of Lorenzo Bromell at defensive end. Johnstone, a starter last year, is expected to be more of a situational pass rusher, but, because of his experience with the team, he comes into camp still as the starter.
When asking questions behind the scenes, it appears that if Alexander and Bromell have strong training camps and preseason performances, they will ascend to the ranks of starters, but Tice is making good on his claim that he intends to make everyone fight for their starting job and, in the case of wide receiver and defensive end, those fights could come all the way down to the end of the preseason before a starter is finally determined.
* The Vikings have made good progress with draftees Willie Offord and Raonall Smith. Offord, the team's third-round draft choice, is prepared to sign a three-year deal with a signing bonus of a little more than $500,000. Smith is expected to be signed and delivered by the time players report to Mankato Friday.
* The same can't be said about Bryant McKinnie. With only three first-round picks signed, but many more expected to fall into place today, tomorrow and Thursday, McKinnie isn't one of the players that is being thrown out as a soon-to-be signee. Yet, the Vikings remain confident he will be in uniform by the end of the weekend.
* Former Viking Craig Sauer hasn't filed the paperwork with the league yet, but it is believed that his foot injury that struck him down two years ago and kept him out of football last season will never sufficiently heal -- effectively forcing him into retirement.
* VU has received word from one of our Saints sources that the suspension that will be handed down to Dale Carter for violating the league's substance abuse policy is expected to be six games -- a hefty penalty for drinking a few beers and not being legally intoxicated. However, there is also talk that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who delayed Carter's reinstatement by a month last year for a one-year suspension of the substance abuse policy, may be willing to reduce the penalty to four games with the caveat that another violation would result in a lifetime ban from the league.
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