Doss Assesses How He'll Fit In

With their starters and top two backups signed for 2007, the signing of free-agent safety Mike Doss creates a crowded defensive backfield. The fifth-year pro talks about how he'll fit into the Vikings scheme.

The good news for Vikings fans is that the team signed a well-known player in free agency. The confusing part is figuring out where safety Mike Doss will play and where he will fit into a defensive backfield that returns 2006 starters Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith, along with getting Tank Williams off of injured reserve and having backup Greg Blue return.

"I really feel I can be a productive player in this secondary and that's why I signed to come to Minnesota," Doss told Viking Update. "Knowing that we have a lot of safeties on the depth chart, anytime you have a competition, it brings out the best in the players and coach will have to make a decision when that time comes across."

That decision likely won't have to be made until early September, a week before the Vikings' season opener, when the NFL mandates that teams trim their rosters to 53 players plus eight practice-squad players. The longer Doss has, the better his situation likely will be, as he is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the sixth game of the 2006 season as a member of the eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts.

Doss had already visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was scheduled to visit the Philadelphia Eagles Wednesday before signing his one-year contract reported to be worth $1 million with the Vikings. His visits with NFL teams were delayed from the March 3 opening of free agency while his knee continued to improve, and he said he expects to take part in spring camps in some capacity and then be ready for more action by the time training camp opens in late July.

However, exactly where he'll fit in once he's healthy and ready to compete for a starting job remains to be seen.

"It's too early to decide. My main goal was to get here and get with the doctors and trainers, get healthy, and once training camp rolls around here in July and early August, then I'm going to let all those things work themselves out here."

"The most important thing is that you don't win games in April, May and June, but you can lose them."

He was the Colts' starting strong safety in his first two years in the league after being a their 2003 second-round draft pick, then he moved to free safety when they drafted Bob Sanders. Last year, Sharper was the team's free safety and Smith became the starter at strong safety when Tank Williams fractured his kneecap in training camp.

Either way, Doss feels comfortable with the Vikings' Tampa-2 defense and coordinator Leslie Frazier, who was a defensive backs coach in Indianapolis the last two years. The Colts also run a similarly styled Tampa-2 defense.

Plus, there were more Ohio State connections for the former Buckeye. Vikings linebackers coach Fred Pagac was Ohio State's defensive coordinator during Doss' first couple years in college. Doss also played with former Buckeyes and current Vikings defensive end Darrion Scott and knows former Buckeyes and current Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who entered the NFL in 1999.

"Darrion Scott – he played back with me at Ohio State – and he told me about the city, the atmosphere, organization and Coach (Brad) Childress in his first year. Also speaking with Winfield and just getting comfortable knowing that Minnesota is a great place to live. That's the most important thing – that you feel comfortable with your surroundings before you make any life-changing decisions like that," Doss said.

Doss started 42 of 46 games he played in with the Colts, but his injury history eventually opened the door for others to step into his starting spot.

He has missed 18 regular-season games with ankle, groin, hamstring and knee injuries, and early in last year's training camp another injury opened the door for Antoine Bethea to catch the attention of coaches.

"I started four years there," Doss said of his time with the Colts. "Unfortunately, after I got injured, guys are going to step in and play, and that's what you're supposed to do. From the day I was drafted (in Indy), they drafted me to be a starter and from my first game I was. It was a four-year deal and the organization got what they wanted. As they say, we won a Super Bowl; they brought championship players to the team. They finally reached that Super Bowl and my contract ran out."

Doss said it was a little harder to leave after missing the playoffs and Super Bowl because of his torn ACL suffered in the sixth game of the season, but it was the personal relationship that made it most difficult to sign somewhere other than the Colts.

"What really makes it hard is just the relationships you build throughout the years. I've had guys I've played with – Edgerrin James, Cato June – moving on and doing different things. Just the relationship I had with Coach (Tony) Dungy, he's probably one of the greatest coaches I've ever played for. It's just what he leaves with his team and his mentality – he's a great man most importantly," Doss said. "The relationships you build, they're friendships, and those are the hardest things you have to deal with."

Now he will have to deal with a crowded safety position and become the hunter coming off of injury versus being the hunted incumbent starter.

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