Bye, Bye Bethel

The Vikings' decade-long history of catch-and-release with their kick returners continued Wednesday as Bethel Johnson, the ninth different Viking to lead the team in kick returns, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles -- opening the door for the next "cursed" individual.

The streak continues.

While some teams have put a great emphasis on having a kickoff return specialist who can change the course of games with a huge return to start a game, start a second half or follow up on an opponent's score with a back-breaking kick return, the Vikings have never seemed to share that point of emphasis themselves. Over the last nine seasons, nine different players have led the team in kick returns.

In 2007, look for that streak to continue to 10 for 10. On Wednesday, the Eagles agreed to a one-year contract with Bethel Johnson, who led the Vikings in kick returns in 2006 and extending what is likely the longest such streak in the NFL. The last time the Vikings had the same player lead them in kickoff returns for a second straight year was in 1998 when David Palmer led the team in back-to-back seasons.

Since that point, the Vikings leader in kick returns has been Palmer, Robert Tate, Troy Walters, Nate Jacquet, Moe Williams, Onterrio Smith, Kelly Campbell, Koren Robinson and Johnson. With Johnson gone to the Eagles, it will be someone else this year and it will be guaranteed to be a new name since none of the other nine players are still with the team and none of the last three even played with the Vikings the following season.

Say what you want to about the Madden Curse. Being a return man for the Vikings is tantamount to punching your own ticket out of town.

THURSDAY NOTES
* The 2007 draft may have taken a huge ripple-effect hit with the signing by the Browns of disgruntled Ravens RB Jamal Lewis. Lewis, who was released for cap reasons with the hope of being re-signed, inked a one-year deal with the Browns. Why is that so important? Many draft observers had the Browns taking Adrian Peterson with the third overall pick. While a one-year deal by no means guarantees that the Browns will go in a different direction, it does signal that the team is trying to address its shoddy play at running back through free agency, as Lewis joins incumbent RB Reuben Droughns.
* The Kevin Curtis World Tour continued, as he visited the Giants and is scheduled to head to the meet with the Eagles today.
* The Patriots appear to be serious about trying to sign Donte Stallworth, despite reports that he is in the league's substance abuse program. According to reports out of Boston, he has been offered a six-year contract worth up to $32 million. If that happens, it would seem obvious that Randy Moss would no longer be in the Pats' plans.
* Wondergate is being discussed again this year. Last year, it was reported that Vince Young scored a hideous seven points on the Wonderlic test administered at the Combine. It was later reported that he in fact scored a 17 on the test. This year, Florida quarterback Chris Leak has been forced to deny reports that he scored an eight on the test.

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