Players, Tice Show Up In Shape

Vikings coach Mike Tice impressed his troops by finishing out the 40-yard sprints he demanded of his players during conditioning-test day at Mankato.

The first practice session of the 2002 Vikings training camp Saturday morning concluded with a mandatory conditioning test that included 14 40-yard dashes with little resting time in between each sprint.

Everybody passed — including head coach Mike Tice.

"I feel horrible," a winded Tice said. "On the 11th one I pulled my left (hamstring). But I had to tough it out and finish."

Players laughed at the first-year coach, but they added that Tice's participation made a serious statement.

"It sends a great message," defensive end Kenny Mixon said, "that he's willing to work as hard as we are."

Said quarterback Daunte Culpepper: "(Tice) can tell guys to (run) all day, but when he gets out there and is doing it with you, that makes a big statement."

Tice said the 1-hour, 45-minute first session, conducted in shorts and helmets, was a crisp practice that proved how hard the players worked to get themselves fit in the offseason.

Players won't dress in full pads until Monday, but already battles for starting jobs and roster spots were heating up. Only Culpepper's and No. 1 wide receiver Randy Moss' spots are secure, Tice said. And the closely watched contests will be those for the No. 2 wide receiver, as well as defensive line and linebacker.

"We're going to try to keep competition at every position we can," Tice said.

The only player missing from Saturday's practice was first-round draft pick Bryant McKinnie, an offensive tackle who has yet to sign a contract with the Vikings. Tice wouldn't talk about McKinnie, saying that he would only talk about players who were in Mankato.

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