Explosive Moore Accepts Lesser Role

Mewelde Moore has been an every-down back, and a successful one when healthy, earlier in his short career, but for now he is accepting a lesser role as a third-down back and punt returner. See what Moore and his coaches had to say about his different opportunities to see the field.

In his short 2½-year career, Vikings running back Mewelde Moore has learned a little something about role changes. The feature running back/third-down specialist/kickoff returner/punt returner/recently discovered quarterback from Tulane seems to have adapted every time.

His 2006 role appears clear: Punt returner and backup running back.

Moore rushed for 662 yards last year and 379 in his rookie season of 2004. With just 59 yards on 10 carries so far this season, Moore is on pace to rush for a career-low 135 yards. But he also has 18 catches for 186 yards, a 15-yard touchdown pass under his belt, and an impressive 12.4-yard punt return average that includes a 71-yard touchdown last Monday against New England.

Even though his rushing attempts are way down, Moore seems to have accepted his role well.

"Everybody on the team has a role and you have to accept it and do the best you can to excel in that role," Moore said. "When you play as a team you put yourself aside. The team comes first and you go from there."

With a 12.4-yard average, Moore is ranked third in the NFL in punt returns. Chicago's Devin Hester leads the league with a 14.6 average and New England's Kevin Faulk is second at 13.4.

"I've been excited about Mewelde Moore from the day I got here," special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said. "It's just a matter of him getting to where he is feeling comfortable with what he is doing and us getting him some blocking.

San Francisco head coach Mike Nolan says the 49ers have faced top-notch punt returners already this season.

"We've faced some explosive returners this year," Nolan said. "We already had Hester last week with Chicago, who's a very good one. We've faced Kansas City and their guy (Dante Hall). I know this: It's important enough that we drafted one in the third round this year to make sure we had a return specialist because they can change the game."

Moore has changed the game, at times, with his punt returns. But where he would ultimately like to be a game-breaker is out of the backfield on an every-down situation, something he has only seen in spurts the previous two seasons here. Prior to this year, Moore had told VU several times that he felt he is an every-down back in this league.

"We try to use everybody that we have, you know all our weapons, whether it's Mewelde or (Jermaine) Wiggins, or all the guys," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "The plays that we have for them, they'll be in there. Sometimes the plays go to them and sometimes they don't. You design them up to try to get a certain guy the ball, but we still have to read the coverage and the coverage dictates where it goes."

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