Chester Taylor had just finished a workout with the Vikings. Nothing spectacular, but fans still called out his name in an attempt to get his autograph.
At the time, Taylor hadn't even had a preseason carry, but Vikings fans were and still are hoping he will be as good as billed by the team that reminds people that Priest Holmes was once a backup in Baltimore who flourished when given the opportunity.
Problem is, some within the organization were also disappointed by the condition that Taylor was in when he reported to minicamps earlier this year. After surviving the rigors of training camp, those fears about his conditioning are likely over. Ironically, Taylor didn't hear about them until he arrived at training camp.
"I didn't really hear it until I got up here," he said.
And then he brushed those concerns aside …
"They were never concerned about it. This is my job. Why would I come here out of shape?" he inquired. "I know what I've got to do. I'm coming here in the No. 1 spot, why would I not come in here in shape? They didn't address it to me because they know I'm going to be the responsible man I am and take care of my business."
With Mewelde Moore missing the last two days of practice of with a knee injury, Taylor could see even more work in Saturday night's second preseason game, this one against the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Against Oakland on Monday night, Taylor and the rest of the running backs struggled a bit. He rushed for only 18 yards on nine carries. Surprisingly, his 2.0-yard per carry average was one-tenth of a yard more than the rest of the running backs averaged.
"There are a lot of corrections that we wanted to make coming out of that game, whether it was the linemen coming off and blocking the right landmark, or the back taking the right steps," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "When we get all of those jelled together, there are going to be some big plays. We had a couple of holes that were there that we took the wrong steps on. We had some correct steps by the backs but some bad landmarks by the linemen. All of that has to come together, and that's why you play these preseason games."
Still, Taylor believes in his offensive line, whether it is the highly publicized left side of the line or the younger right side with Artis Hicks and Marcus Johnson.
"Everybody talks about the left side (of the line, but) my right side is pretty good too. Hicks and Marcus, they're all coming along. Every day we come out here we're just getting better," Taylor said.
That improvement should happen with time, as left tackle Bryant McKinnie's hand goes from a wrapped-up club to eventually back into football gloves. As Steve Hutchinson becomes more familiar with McKinnie and center Matt Birk. As Birk gets more familiar with the offensive line calls he needs to make in a new system. As Hicks adjusts to moving to the right side of the offensive line. As Marcus Johnson progresses in his second season in the league.
Eventually, Taylor is hoping to break out for the kind of a season he can be proud of as a starter. As a part-time starter in 2004, he proved he could do it, rushing for over 100 yards in two of his four starts that year. In four games in which he has had 20 or more carries, he has averaged 97.8 yards.
All of that potential means Moore is expected to stay as a rotational backup as long as Taylor is healthy. But all that is still being worked out.
"I don't know how they are going to break down. We'll just have to wait until the games. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get the bulk of the carries, and after I get tired they'll sub in," Taylor said. "I believed coming into camp I was the number one guy."
While Bevell wouldn't tag a receiver like Troy Williamson with the No. 1 receiver label, he said Taylor is the No. 1 running back right now.
"We have seen some good things from Chester (Taylor). In the (Oakland) game, he had some plays where he made yards on his own," Bevell said.
Taylor Confident Trying to Establish Himself
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