Notebook: Cutting Weight, Ex-Packers and More

The Vikings defense has gotten better for a number of reasons, and one of those reasons is faster players because of weight loss. Plus, see what Ryan Longwell and Darren Sharper had to say about the Packers, and get more notes and quotes from the locker room.

Last year, Darrion Scott was rotating at defensive tackle and defensive end and doing just fine while weighing more than 300 pounds. Then came a new coaching staff, a new scheme and a new request for almost all of the Vikings front seven – cut weight.

"With our defense and the way they want us to play, there is no way I could play at 300 pounds and run the way they want you to run," Scott said. "They want you to run to every single ball."

That has shown throughout the off-season into these early weeks of the regular season. After stretching exercises, the defense usually retreats to an adjacent practice field and begins working on pursuit drills where even the defensive linemen are asked to take an angle of attack to reach a ball carrier before he reaches the end zone. Many times that can mean a sprint across the field and 40 yards down the field for a hefty lineman.

But the weight loss didn't come easy for Scott.

"I didn't ever think I was going to lose it. It was hard. You've got to eat salads and egg whites and stuff like that," Scott said.

But since losing the weight over the course of the off-season, he says his cartilage and tendonitis issues he was having in his knees have lessened. That's especially good news considering Scott could move into a starting spot this week after the Vikings lost Erasmus James to a torn left ACL last Sunday.

Scott said the weight-loss guidelines for the defensive linemen might be putting Kevin Williams back to his Pro Bowl form of 2004.

"I told him on the sidelines he was like the old Kevin Williams. It's somewhat that the coaching staff wanted us to lose weight, and it's obviously showing. He's slimmer and he's faster and he's somewhat got his swagger back," Scott said. "It was real obvious (last Sunday), and I think you can expect to see that the rest of the season."

But you can also expect the Vikings' defensive linemen to continue a theme of generous rotation and substitution throughout the games.

In last Sunday's win over the Carolina Panthers, the Vikings started at least one series with only one starter (Kenechi Udeze) on the defensive line out on the field – and that was before James' season-ending injury.

"It creates an advantage for the defensive line because we're always rotating guys in there and the offensive line, they rarely sub, if they ever do sub, in a game. It definitely gives us an advantage to go there and have fresh guys," Scott said.

Scott's more extensive time in the first two games could help as the Vikings proceed without James available.

The stamina required of defenders will be helped along as they carry less weight – in Scott's case he fired about 20 pounds off his frame – and he doesn't think the loss of mass hurts his ability to be a stout defensive lineman.

"In this league, it's more about technique than strength. When you come off the ball and get your hands on the guy in the right places, you can defend a guy that's 500 pounds," he said.


Darren Sharper isn't going on the attack against his former team, the Green Bay Packers, but when asked what he thinks of their situation at 0-2 enter Sunday's games, Sharper didn't hide behind the clichés that can permeate the locker rooms in professional sports.

"It's in disarray over there. If you've got a house full of kids and all the kids are acting up and the parents aren't home, who do you blame? You can answer that question," Sharper said. "The parents. Who are the parents? The people up top that make the decisions."

Sharper indicated he believes the Packers management (read: Ted Thompson) is trying to play it both ways when it comes to rebuilding and still trying to have a respectable record this season.

"It really bothers me to see Brett (Favre) struggle toward the end of such of a legendary career, but if you dig the grave in the decisions you make, you're going to have to deal with the consequences. You can say that you're not rebuilding, but then all the moves that you make say that you are rebuilding. You can tell all the older guys that are there like Brett and Ahman (Green) that you're not rebuilding and you have them going through this struggle with a lot of young guys who aren't experienced, it's a tough situation for you."

Sharper said Green loves the game as much as anyone he knows, which makes it harder for him. But, while he feels for his former teammates, he doesn't have much sympathy for the front office.

"As far as the people up top who make the decisions and put them in that spot, I don't feel sorry for them," Sharper said.

Kicker Ryan Longwell, who, like Sharper, played nine years for the Packers before signing a free-agent contract with the Vikings, said the long time spent building relationships makes it harder to move on.

"Darren was there a long time and I was there a long time, and you build relationships with guys. You realize how hard Brett and (Donald) Driver and those guys work to succeed, so when it doesn't go their way you hurt for them as friends," Longwell said. "But at the same time, we're on a different team now, so were obviously happy for our successes thus far. Their personnel department makes the decisions how they want to shape the team, so that doesn't really have anything to do with us. We just kind of go where we're wanted."


Longwell threw the first touchdown pass of his career last week against the Panthers when the Vikings faked a field goal, Longwell rolled right and connected with a wide open Richard Owens.

"It's every kid's dream in the NFL to throw a pass, especially a touchdown pass. It took me 10 years to get one and it will probably be 10 more to get another one," Longwell said. "It was a spiral, so that's half the battle. It got on him, so that was the extent of my job. I think guys enjoyed it, and trick plays are always fun when they're pulled off."

Still, Longwell doesn't expect a quarterback controversy, despite finishing the game with a 158.3 passer rating on 1-for-1 passing. Brad Johnson had a 72.4 rating while going 19-for-31.

"I still don't think I could win the job with my high school team," Longwell said.


  • The Vikings blitzed more than a typical Cover-2 would last week, but offensive lineman Anthony Herrera expects the Bears might blitz more than Carolina against Minnesota's offense. "They are all great defenses – I guess all three of them were in the top 10 last year," Herrera said of the Vikings' first three opponents this season. "Whether we go against the Tampa-2 or a crazy defense like Washington or a defense that likes to get their pressure off their front four like Carolina, it's not that big of a difference. A good defense like Chicago's is just going (to have) a few more blitzes than we saw last week. Chicago gets a little more exotic with their blitzes."

  • Cornerback Antoine Winfield on linebacker Napoleon Harris, who had a game-high 11 tackles last Sunday: "With this defense we needed a guy that could run down the middle. With his speed, he's athletic and doesn't make too many errors."

  • Winfield on the Vikings' tight wins so far this year: "Last year, if we were in situations like that, I think we would have lost, but we know if we keep a game close we can pull it through in the end."

  • Tight end Jermaine Wiggins on wide receiver Troy Williamson: "I'm no scout, but I think the guy's going to be a really good player."

  • Wiggins on the Vikings' early-season matchup with the Bears: "You know it's a division game, and what it does is give you the advantage come the end of the season if you can come away with a win. … We know the magnitude of this game and we're prepared. Like Coach Childress always says, ‘The more important the game is, the better you know you're doing.' This game has so much importance to it."

  • Chicago is plus-4 in turnover differential, with four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. On offense, the Bears have lost one fumble and thrown one interception. The Vikings, meanwhile, are even on turnovers, throwing one interception and recovering one fumble.

  • Chester Taylor is tied for eighth in the league for first downs earned. He has 12, tying him with Steven Jackson (Rams), Rudi Johnson (Bengals), Michael Vick (Falcons) and Brian Westbrook (Eagles).

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