Kolodziej Joins First-Team Defense

With Pat Williams forced to work on his conditioning instead of practicing football, Ross Kolodziej is doing what he can to make an impression at nose tackle. Plus, Matt Birk undergoes his first full-pads practice since his lost season, Brad Johnson's role is changing slightly and Brad Childress talks about the offense's versatility.

With Pat Williams doing conditioning drills on a nearby field under the watch of a trainer, defensive tackle Ross Kolodziej is locking up with offensive linemen. Kolodziej knows his position is temporary, but with Williams out perhaps a week improving his conditioning, Kolodziej wants to take advantage of this chance to work with the first team.

"I started 14 games last year so I'm comfortable there," he said. "It's not where you start, it's where you finish. Pat will be back pretty quick so I want to make the most of this opportunity and get better."

Kolodziej has been in the league since he was a seventh-round draft choice by the New York Giants. He was cut by the Giants in 2002, then went to San Francisco. Though he didn't play in a regular-season game in 2002 or 2003, he revived his career in Arizona the past two seasons, starting 18 of 29 games.

Last season, he made 39 tackles and three sacks. When he became a free agent, Minnesota was a team that showed the most interest.

"It's a great organization that has a great commitment to winning," he said.

Though Kolodziej knows he will likely be back on the second unit when
Williams is activated, he said he'll continue to work, knowing nothing is certain in the NFL.

"There's guys whose name you see (on waivers) that you'd never expect to see," he said.


Matt Birk, who missed all of last season with hip and hernia injuries, went through his first full-pads workout Tuesday morning, and he said everything was OK.

"I wasn't thinking about the injury," Birk said. "I was just working on technique out there."

He said that despite having game experience only with left tackle Bryant McKinnie, he's impressed with his offensive linemates.

"The best part is not so much the talent, but the work ethic," he said.


As a backup, quarterback Brad Johnson handled the holding duties last season, but coach Brad Childress doesn't want his starter in that role, so punter Chris Kluwe has been working as the holder for Ryan Longwell.
But if anything goes wrong, Johnson wouldn't mind returning.

"I'm ready to go," he said.


Tuesday's morning practice was conducted in a steady rain, which Johnson didn't mind after a day of near-100 degree heat and high humidity.

"If it's fourth down and (Childress) wants to go for it, you go for it," Johnson said. "If he wants to practice in the rain, you practice in the rain. You have to buy into (what he wants)."


Childress said his version of the West Coast offense contains enough formations to keep from being predictable, whether it be one, two or no
tight ends or multiple receivers.

"You never want to let the defense get their cleats screwed in the
ground," Childress said.

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