The Vikings tweaked their 53-man roster over the weekend, signing wide receiver Todd Pinkston, quarterback Brooks Bollinger, running back Artose Pinner and defensive back Rashad Baker. On Monday, they also added offensive lineman Steve Edwards, a fifth-year veteran released by the Chicago Bears.
While that is a lot of roster turnover in a short period of time entering preparations for the regular-season opener Monday night in Washington, some of those players have familiarity with the Vikings and/or their coaching staff.
Bollinger started a career-high nine game last year with the New York Jets, but his familiarity with Vikings coach Brad Childress goes back to his freshman year at Wisconsin, when Bollinger was a redshirt recruited by Childress, who was the Badgers' offensive coordinator at the time. Bollinger eventually posted a 30-12 record as a starter with the Badgers and won a Rose Bowl while Childress was part of the Philadelphia Eagles' staff.
"I just fell into a great situation," Bollinger said of his days in Wisconsin. "That was quite a run we had there of talent. I don't know how it happened that I ended up there, but to fall into that situation with a guy like Coach (Barry) Alvarez and the staffs he has had over the years, to fall into that situation playing as a freshman is just an unbelievable experience for me. Like you said, I was there at a great time. I think I counted for some of the losses too."
In two seasons with the Jets, Bollinger has completed 56 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions and a 73.0 rating. In his first season, he ran a West Coast version under offensive coordinator Paul Hackett.
"He's a grinder," Childress said of Bollinger on Monday. "He's been here the last three nights, really all day long, sitting in the film room. When you walk back in to see him, he has a book full of notes to ask you about different things."
Bollinger may or may not be ready to assume the No. 2 spot behind starter Brad Johnson on Monday night, but he started to get some turns with the offense in Monday's practice. Players have Tuesday off, but Bollinger could be back in the film room anyway.
"I know how he's wired. He is a coach's son; that's very important. I used to talk to guys on that last staff there with Herman Edwards," Childress said. "He was notorious as a grinder that spent time. He has shown that in the last three days. Usually the thing to do is to fly back and get your belongings, but right from the outset he was saying, ‘No, coach, I don't need to go back. I'm good. I'll stay here, and I want to get up to speed.' I know how he is wired, and I appreciate that."
The Vikings didn't take long to make Bollinger part of their long-term plans, giving him a two-year contract extension, a move that could prove to be wise down the road and offer some long-term stability at quarterback with Johnson turning 38 years old this month and Tarvaris Jackson a rookie in training.
"Just the way free agency is now, you go back out to the free-agent market, and it's probably going to cost you more to do business at the end of the year than it is right now," Childress said of Bollinger's extension that takes him through the 2008 season.
PINKSTON IN PURPLE
Pinkston's addition to the roster gives the Vikings another deep threat, and one that has that all-important familiarity with Childress' system and way of doing business.
But one of the biggest initial questions with Pinkston is his health, as he tries to come back from a torn Achilles' tendon.
"He had 26 snaps that I looked at the other night from the Pittsburgh game (third preseason game), and we wanted to see him against game-caliber competition. Obviously, we had a little bit of familiarity with Pittsburgh having played them, so even though he only got his hands on the ball once, you are really watching him do things away from the football, run routes, that type of thing," Childress said. "I don't know how Pink would characterize it, but I see him none the worse for wear. He has a little bit of a hitch in his gait probably when he jogs back, but I don't see it when he's getting on the gas pedal."
Pinkston admitted that his recovery could be an on-going process, but he said he should be ready for Monday night's game.
"Sometimes you have to manage it and just keep working. It might be a nagging injury, but you can't let it get you down," Pinkston said. "Go out there and get the job done. Your teammates and coaches expect you to go out there and give it 100 percent."
In six seasons with Philadelphia, Pinkston has caught 184 passes for 2,816 yards, a 15.3-yard average, but he said he considers himself more of an all-around receiver versus a deep threat. He has 14 touchdowns in regular-season action and two in 12 playoff games.
FRESH START FOR PINNER
Like the other two offensive players acquired, Pinner said he was a little surprised that Detroit released him but could see the signs of it coming. Pinner and his agent asked to be traded earlier in training camp, so his release gives him a fresh start in Minnesota.
"You always want a second chance to get rid of all the stereotypes and things like that, that maybe the old staff might have put on you," Pinner said. "I think just having another chance in Minnesota, where the staff picked you up because they want to use you somehow – and just feeling wanted again – that makes you just want to go the extra yards for that staff."
In fact, Pinner had already been going the extra yards in front of the Vikings. He posted a career-high 103 offensive yards against Minnesota on Dec. 4, 2005. That was part of a career season for him, as he had 349 yards.
In his three-year career with Detroit, he has started six games, but his role with the Vikings has yet to be defined. At 5-foot-10 and 232 pounds, there are many options for him.
"I don't know that you characterize him as a short-yardage guy. He can be an every-down back. I've seen him do things in the pass game and in the run game," Childress said. "… We're happy to have him, and I think he's a multiple-use back."
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