Bates' Bid For No. 2

Wide receiver D'Wayne Bates has had strong practice sessions since he joined the Vikings this spring and had a team-leading four catches against Cleveland. Those performances are keeping him in the lead for the No. 2 receiver as Derrick Alexander returns to practice.

Forget about the Randy Ratio. How ‘bout the Bates-O-Meter?

The Minnesota Vikings signed Chicago Bears discarded wide receiver D'Wayne Bates in the offseason because they thought he had a chance to be the team's No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, lining up opposite Randy Moss.

The Vikings also signed former Chiefs receiver Derrick Alexander, which before training camp looked as if it would shape up as one of the more interesting battles to watch in Mankato. The Vikings broke camp this week and migrated north to Eden Prairie with Bates as the leader for that No. 2 spot and Alexander trying to gain ground.

Because of a toe injury, Alexander missed almost the entire training camp in Mankato. He returned to practice this week, just two days before the team broke camp.

Bates has done well building his case for why he should be the starter opposite Moss. In the Vikings' preseason game against Cleveland, Bates had a team-high four catches for 40 yards. (O.J. Santiago had two catches for a team-best 48 yards). Moss finished with two catches for 17 yards.

"I just wanted to get on the field and showcase my skills as a receiver," Bates said.

From Day 1 of the Mike Tice regime, the most highly publicized goal of the Vikings offense has been to find ways to get Moss more catches. Last season, when at least 40 percent of the plays went to Moss, Tice and assistant coach Charlie Baggett calculated, the Vikings were 4-1. When the ratio was less than 40, the Vikings were 1-10.

Against the Browns, the Randy Ratio was a non-factor. Of 15 passes thrown by quarterback Daunte Culpepper, four were in Moss' direction. Two were complete. In that case, the Randy Ratio was 26.7 percent. The Vikings lost, but the game was an exhibition — and Moss and most of the offensive starters weren't even wearing shoulder pads by the end of the first half.

"We called a number of plays for him, but we threw 15 passes when he was in there and four went his direction," Tice said. "We'll keep working our way through to that and get where we need to be."

What should excite Vikings fans is that Bates — at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds — gives the Vikings a physical receiver that apparently can take punishment. It would be unfair to expect Bates (or Alexander) to replace the void left on the field by future Hall of Famer Cris Carter, but if Bates continues to improve his receiving game opposite Moss, the Vikings' No. 2 receiving spot could be a pleasant surprise this season.

When he signed with the Vikings, Bates knew there was room for receivers other than Moss to get the ball. "If I was a quarterback, I would definitely get the ball to 84," Bates said. "But at the same time, Daunte is going to need other weapons out there. There's going to be a lot of opportunities for us when teams try to take Randy out of the game."

So far, Bates has delivered.

"D'Wayne had a nice series [against Cleveland], a couple nice catches — he's big, he's strong, he's physical," Tice said. "Nice strong run after the catch, not for long distance, but physical with the ball on the goal line, and we like what D'Wayne is doing for us."

Bates was drafted by the Bears in the third round (71st overall) of the 1999 draft. In three years of limited play, he had 15 receptions for 221 yards and one touchdown. The bulk of his production during his three years at Chicago came in one game against Detroit, where he had four passes for 107 yards and one touchdown.

"The coaches have given me a fair opportunity, and I'm just going to go out every day and try to make the most of it," said Bates, a high school teammate of Vikings cornerback Corey Chavous.

With a little more than three weeks remaining before opening day, and Alexander getting healthier and back in condition, the competition will continue to heat up for the second receiving spot.

"I told [Alexander] I knew sooner or later he would be back," Tice said. "I think he was anxious to get back and be part of this."

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