Vikings Prepare for Final Cuts

With some NFL teams already making their cuts to the final 53-man rosters, at least 16 Vikings, if not more, will be gone in a little more than 24 hours -- or as quickly as this morning.

With Mike Tice off to Michigan to attend the funeral of Rakiva Kelly, the wife of Vikings offensive tackle Lewis Kelly, he was not among the first coaches to pare down their rosters to 53 players. Former Vikings assistant coach Brian Billick was one of the first, jettisoning a dozen players Friday.

Tice's task will come either today or tomorrow, but regardless of when it is, it won't be an easy task. Several players who were once thought to be locks to make the final roster are now in jeopardy.

Regular VU readers heard the rave reviews for Kyries Hebert, a safety who wowed coaches at minicamp. However, his play in the preseason hasn't been up to the same practice standard and he could wind up being a casualty, but almost sure to make the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Other players who remain on the bubble are kicker Doug Brien, who didn't receive the same vote of confidence following the Pittsburgh game that he did after the win over Tennessee. Another could be veteran Sean Dawkins, who helped his stock Thursday with a big catch in the second half, but could be a victim of the numbers game if the team opts for youngsters Kelly Campbell as a fifth receiver and Nick Davis, who has made a strong impression on trying to win a roster spot as a kick returner.

VU has also been told that as many as 20 players may eventually see their 53-man roster pink slip, as the Vikings will continue to monitor the waiver wire. We're being told the team has watched several potential cuts with some interest in other preseason games and that no player is totally safe from the Turk asking for his playbook.

Tice has agonized over such decisions in his short tenure as coach, as evidenced by his waiting game to see if he could draft a young kicker before eventually waiving Gary Anderson -- who speculation continues to swirl may be making a return visit to the Vikings.

Whether easy or difficult, Tice is on the clock to make his cut selections -- and Kansas City won't slip in front of him this time.

SATURDAY NOTES
* One name mentioned by more than one Vikings official Friday was Oakland linebacker Greg Biekert. He is in a numbers game -- both with players and the pending salary cap crush the Raiders are/will be facing. VU has been told that, while the starting MLB job was promised to Henri Crockett, his progress in quarterbacking the defense hasn't been to the liking of defensive coordinator Willie Shaw. Biekert, who played for Shaw in Oakland, could be a stop-gap pickup, much like former Raider Lance Johnstone was when he was brought in to be a designated pass rusher and became a full-time starter.
* Linebacker Lemanski Hall, who has been sidelined with an orbital fracture of his eye, has been cleared to resume practice.
* The Vikings worked out former Chief and Jaguar fullback Frank Moreau Friday. Moreau, who played at Louisville under Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, could spell trouble for James Wofford if he is signed, since FB Harold Morrow looks to have a roster spot nailed down.
* WR Kenny Clark was at practice Friday after having successful back surgery Wednesday. Clark has been placed on injured reserve and will be out for the season.
* For those wondering why the Vikings have 69 players on the roster instead of 65, the NFL gives roster exemptions for every player a team has allocated to NFL Europe during the first cutdown period. Because the Vikings had four players in the European league, when the first cutdown date came, the team had to get to 69 not 65 players.
* It's never too early to gamble apparently. The Week One odds are already out in Las Vegas and the Bears are only a four-point favorite over the Vikings -- not bad considering the Bears are at home and coming off a 13-3 season and a Central Division title.
* On the "Bad News for the Vikings" front comes this -- VU has been told by a Bears source that safety Mike Brown and guard Chris Villarrial, both of whom have missed all of the preseason with broken bones in their hands, are expected to start in the season opener Sept. 8.

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