Bethel Johnson Wants More WR Action

The Vikings got what they bargained for in Bethel Johnson's kick returning skills, but the speedy free agent-to-be may want to become more involved in the offense if he is to re-sign with the team.

The Vikings might have found something in Bethel Johnson, who after three seasons as a role player in New England signed with the Vikings early in the 2006 season after getting released by New Orleans.

First, Johnson came as advertised as a potentially explosive kick returner. He returned a career-high 45 kickoffs for the Vikings and averaged 23.4 yards. While he scored no touchdowns (one was called back on a questionable block-in-the-back penalty), he had a pair of kick returns of 40 or more yards this season. For much of the season, Johnson was among the top five kick returners in the NFC, but he slumped toward the end of the season and finished 11th in the NFC.

What might be encouraging to the Vikings is Johnson's average yards per catch. In limited time, he had just nine catches this season, but he averaged 17.3 yards per reception.

"I don't like people dissing my skills as a receiver," Johnson said. "I came here because I had a fair chance to return kicks and play receiver. I had opportunities to return kicks on many teams, but I saw a good opportunity in Minnesota to do both."

Given the Vikings' lack of receivers, Johnson might be an attractive keeper for them. He can give them consistency on kick returns and provide big plays on offense at a low price.

"They see me every day (in practice) so they know what I can do," Johnson said. "On Sundays, I had to make the most out of every opportunity regardless of what hand was dealt to me."

Johnson belonged to the esteemed Patriots from 2003-2005 so he knows what a winning organization looks like. While the Vikings can hardly be mentioned with New England in the same sentence, Johnson said he could see himself staying in Minnesota.

"They are two different organizations as far as how the Patriots do things and how the Vikings do things," Johnson said. "But in a way they're the same in that the ownership is letting (the coaches) run their system."

If the Vikings choose to let Johnson go, it won't be because he commands too high of a price.

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