Free Agent Reveals Theory for 2007

Running back Artose Pinner is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in March, but he thinks he could be a valuable member of the Vikings in 2007 with a little adjustment to the offensive approach.

Artose Pinner isn't a member of the front office, he's a member of the locker room, but if he did wear a suit and tie to work every day he thinks he would have a plan to make the Vikings' rushing attack even more productive.

Of course being a player, not a personnel coordinator, Pinner is admittedly biased. But still, he thinks his plan has merit.

"I know Chester has been a great guy shouldering most of the load and showing he is durable," Pinner said. "But there might be a situation where you could take some of that load off of Chester and that would make him just as fresh at the end of the year as he was in the beginning of the year. It would make him that much more dangerous."

Under the current system, where Vikings employ a feature back when healthy, Taylor has rushed for a career-best 1,185 yards in 14 games. (He missed one game because of injury). In those 14 games, Taylor averaged 20.8 carries, fifth in the league behind and elite throng of runners in LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Rudi Johnson and Edgerrin James.

Even though his production has been solid, the 21 carries per game have taken a toll on Taylor, who has been banged up since mid-season. Pinner, who is eligible to become a restricted free agent after the season – meaning the Vikings have the right to match any offer from another team – thinks he could be a player who would spell Taylor more frequently.

"There are plenty of teams in the NFL who rotate backs consistently where they share the load," Pinner said.

Pinner isn't lobbying for even playing time with Taylor. What Pinner is attempting to sell is that a few more carries for him might prove beneficial to Taylor and the Vikings in December when they need their feature back most.

After spending three seasons mostly in the background with the Detroit Lions, Pinner is happy to be a Viking. "I think I'm appreciated," he said. "On offense, I've had the opportunity to show that I'm a solid No. 2 guy. Nobody really claimed that spot. As the season progressed I wanted to take a step forward in that direction and I think the game against Detroit helped me to do that."

Earlier this month, Pinner stepped in for an injured Taylor and had a monstrous game. He rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. Prior to that he had basically been a special teamer, leading Brad Johnson to muse after the game, "Who is Artose Pinner?"

Pinner's agent will no doubt store the film from that game in case he needs it in the offseason when they explore his client's future.

"It was definitely a huge opportunity," Pinner said. "I took advantage of the opportunity that allowed me to show people I could run the ball and carry the load and was durable. Also going for me is all of the opportunities I have had on special teams. So I have had the chance to show some things."

After the season Pinner will consider the possibilities of remaining in Minnesota and ponder his options around the NFL. Like most free agents, it will be a decision he won't take lightly.

"You definitely want to look at the direction of the team," Pinner said. "You look at the coaches. You look at how the coaches treat the players. You look at how the players treat other players on the team. This is a great place to be because the coaches treat everybody equally, the players treat everybody equally, and as far as potential, there is a lot of potential here for this to be a playoff team year-in and year-out."


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