Running back Ciatrick Fason is trying to tip the scales in more ways than one. Fason, entering his second season in the NFL, spent much of the offseason attempting to gain weight. Apparently, he accomplished that mission when he checked into training camp at 218 pounds – up 11 pounds from his listed weight last year.
"I'm the biggest back at tailback right now," Fason declared.
Receiver Travis Taylor, who happened to overhear Fason's declaration, chimed: "You're not that big."
While Taylor offered an unsolicited reality check this week, Fason remains optimistic as the season opener is still 40-some days away. Even though the Vikings brought in Chester Taylor from Baltimore to be the starting running back and Tony Richardson from Kansas City to be the starting fullback, and Mewelde Moore is next in line for carries, Fason still sees playing time and carries in his future.
"We run the I-formation and that's what I like," Fason said. "I can play the I-formation and my playing time will be more than it was last year."
Remember, this is Fason talking, not head coach Brad Childress, offensive coordinator Darrel Bevell, or even running backs coach Eric Bieniemy.
Fason was selected in the fourth round of the 2005 draft and played sparingly as a rookie. But as Michael Bennett, Moore and Moe Williams battled injuries, Fason found a role as the goal-line and short-yardage back. His production didn't match the role – he rushed for 62 yards off 32 carries (1.9-yard average) – but he did manage to score four touchdowns in the final two months of the season.
He thinks the weight gain might help him this season. "Since I was only 207 pounds last year, I put a big emphasis on gaining weight," Fason said. "At 218, I feel better than I have in a long time. T-Rich taught me you have to take care of yourself, eat right and maintain your weight and that's what I did in the offseason."
"T-Rich" is Richardson, the player who theoretically will absorb many of the carries Fason had hoped for. But rather than slump his shoulders and sink his head wondering if he will ever see the field, Fason chose to learn from Richardson, a seasoned 12-year veteran.
"Last year, we played a tight end in the backfield a lot," Fason said. "This year, we brought in a legitimate fullback who's been to two Pro Bowls. When you bring in a guy like that, it shows you how much we are going to run this year. We're going to put a lot of emphasis on the running game. You can't get caught up in roles, but all of us running backs know that we're going to get called upon."
Moore can empathize with Fason. Rather than climb the depth charts, both he and Fason watched as the Vikings brought in likely starters at fullback (Richardson) and tailback (Taylor).
"All of our running backs can compete," Moore said. "We have a great stable and all of us are making each other better, and that's good for the team."
Fason figures he has time. "I've learned to be patient," Fason said. "You might not be the right guy at the right time, but if you're patient you'll get your chance."
Fason Hopes to Tip Scales in His Favor
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