What Role For T-Rich?

With training camp less than a week away, all eyes will be on Adrian Peterson when he signs his contract and the battle with Chester Taylor for playing time begins. But what role is fullback Tony Richardson going to play? With a new look in the running game, his role may be severely modified or effectively eliminated in some situations.

Ever since the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson, the question most people have been asking is the how the workload is going to be shared between Peterson and Chester Taylor. Many believe it can be an equal-opportunity workload like the types that Saints, Patriots, Colts and Bears used to advance to their respective conference championships. But one thing none of those teams have that the Vikings do is a starting fullback.

Tony Richardson was signed during the offseason a year ago to give Taylor a lead blocker, his quarterbacks some protection and was used as an outlet receiver on screen passes. He had formed a role for himself that had him on the field on just about every down except third-and-long situations and three-receiver sets. What is his role now?

When Richardson was signed, the last thing on the Vikings' minds was to finish with a poor enough record that they would be drafting high enough to take a game-breaker like Peterson. Brad Childress' plan was to play old-school smashmouth football with Taylor as his workhorse and Richardson as his battering ram.

When Richardson came to the Vikings, he made Jim Kleinsasser an odd man out who never really had a well-defined role with the team last year. He wasn't used as a blocking fullback in the new West Coast Offense and didn't see much action as a receiver. His primary job became as an assistant to a weak right side of the offensive line, a job that might well be going to Visanthe Shiancoe now.

Childress has discussed the potential of using Taylor and Peterson on the field at the same time, something he did in Philadelphia with Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter in those few moments when Buckhalter could stay healthy and on the field. If that is the case, Richardson won't have a role on any of those plays.

While it's very unlikely the Vikings will release Richardson because he exemplifies the kind of selfless, team-oriented players Childress wants on his team, you have to wonder what his role is going to be as the Vikings offense takes on yet another new look. From first glance, it appears it will be reduced – perhaps sharply reduced.

SATURDAY NOTES
* The Vikings' stadium quest is going to take another interesting swerve in the coming weeks, as a study is underway to see if there can be a remodeling of the Metrodome to make it more economically viable. A similar proposal was made a couple of years ago and was rejected by the Vikings as still leaving them woefully behind in the amenities and revenue streams new stadiums generate for owners.
* One has to wonder what Jon Gruden is thinking in Tampa Bay. The team met at an airport hangar with Daunte Culpepper this week and the first question many asked was why? The team already has six quarterbacks on its roster. While Jake Plummer is still listed, he insists he's retired, but that still leaves Jeff Garcia, 2006 starters Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski, Luke McCown and something called Bruce Eugene and Zac Taylor. Seven may be a lucky number, but not when it comes to the number of QBs on a preseason roster.
* Dolphins coach Cam Cameron wouldn't specify which team was involved, but he said the Dolphins came close to trading Culpepper in the days following the signing of Trent Green, but the deal fell through.
* The Colts took a hit Friday when left offensive tackle Tarik Glenn, who has protected Peyton Manning's blind side for his entire career, said he has decided to retire. The decision comes just one week before the Colts are entering training camp in defense of their championship and had left them with few options. Their depth chart currently has sixth-round second-year man Charlie Johnson as the next in line – not good news for the media savvy Manning. Cut that meat, Peyton.
* Animal rights activists may have found the face to put to their outrage about animal cruelty with Michael Vick. Only days after he was indicted in federal court for his alleged role in a dog fighting operation, about 50 animal rights activists picketed in front of the NFL league office in New York City asking the league to suspend Vick. While it is rumored that the league and Falcons officials are discussing a scenario in which Vick would be placed on a paid leave of absence for the 2007 season, official correspondence to the matter has indicated the league is looking to let the criminal case play itself out before taking action like a suspension of Vick. This story isn't going away any time soon and Vick now can be the poster boy for animal rights activists everywhere – putting a famous face to their outrage.

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