North vs. South Has New Meaning With Vikings

The Vikings have four players hailing from the Dakotas and they were not afraid to exchange playful barbs back and forth this week. Regardless, they all seem to appreciate playing in Minnesota. Plus, get more than 20 notes and quotes (including Adrian Peterson's more extensive action) from Tuesday's morning practice, which was conducted in pads.

It's a safe assumption that there aren't too many players from North and South Dakota sweating out two-a-days across the NFL landscape. But the Vikings have four of them.

Backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger, Grand Forks, N.D.; tight end Jim Kleinsasser, Carrington, N.D.; and linebackers Ben Leber, Vermillion, S.D. and Chad Greenway, Mt. Vernon, S.D., are proud natives of the two sparsely populated states.

"It's interesting that we all ended up on one team and that it's the Vikings, the closest team to both places," said Bollinger, whose father, Rob, coached at the University of North Dakota when Kleinsasser played there. "We all got here through different ways. I went through Wisconsin and New York and came back. Jimmy came right from North Dakota. Chad through Iowa and Ben through San Diego. I think it's kind of luck of the draw to get everybody in one place together and have it be so close (to home).

"People back in North Dakota actually believe I'm in the NFL now. When I was with the Jets, it was kind of like in a different world. Now when I come back, it's a big deal to them. It's fun."

Even though there is a healthy rivalry between the two states, Bollinger "admitted" he's glad Greenway and Leber are his teammates.

"They're all right," he said with a laugh.

"They are two good, all-around football players. They both are really smart, always being leaders on the defensive team, getting guys lined up, getting things communicated … They just make a lot of plays."

While South guys are "all right," Leber said North guys are just "OK." With tongue firmly in cheek, Leber said, "You know, they try to hold their own. (But) us South guys, we're just so much better than them. They continue to scrap and claw, but they're never going to get on top."

Turning serious, Leber said, "It's pretty special to have some guys from around the area that you're used to."

Observations from Tuesday morning's practice, conducted in full pads:

  • Head coach Brad Childress classified an injury suffered by running back Chester Taylor as a "forearm contusion." Childress said X-rays showed a "bruise" on Taylor's right forearm. The injury occurred away from the ball early during 11-on-11 action in Blakeslee Stadium. Taylor walked under his own power to the locker room with the training staff shortly after sustaining the injury.

  • Safety Darren Sharper returned to the field after missing four practices, thanks to a violent collision with fullback Tony Richardson on Saturday morning. "It felt good, it felt good," Sharper said following practice. "Trying to get my legs underneath me … It's good to get back out there and do some work."

    Sharper, who wore long sleeves despite the heat, didn't participate in the full contact portion of 11-on-11. Free-agent pickup Mike Doss again stepped in for him.

  • Fifth-year running back Artose Pinner continued to play ahead of fourth-year man Mewelde Moore. "I've been getting a little more reps since from the first day of camp," Pinner said. "They just have given me opportunities, and I seem to have taken advantage of them so they decided to give me some more. I feel like I'm doing pretty well as long as I'm not making any mistakes, stay sound in my assignments and not give them a reason not to give me any more plays."

  • Moore, though, was the lone offensive bright spot during 11-on-11 action. He converted a third-and-17 on a screen pass and had two long bursts up the middle. "Mewelde Moore has had an excellent camp," Childress said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do and then some."

  • Moore's situation, praise from the coach but less reps, makes some observers wonder if the Vikings are trying to dangle him as trade bait. With Taylor and top pick Adrian Peterson, it's a crowded backfield for the team.

  • Peterson had a rough practice. He fumbled once and was dropped by defensive tackle Pat Williams for a 1-yard loss. In all, Peterson, who replaced Taylor with the first team, had about a half-dozen carries for minimal yardage.

  • Peterson did help convert a third-and-11 when he caught a Tarvaris Jackson pass over the middle.

  • At one point, Peterson and Moore lined up together in the backfield.

  • Rookie third-round pick Marcus McCauley continued to shine, intercepting a Jackson pass and returning it for a touchdown. "Coach is probably going to be wearing my hat today," McCauley said leaving practice. The talented cornerback was referring to the habit of defensive backs coach Joe Woods to don the college hat of the player performing the best.

  • Earlier, safety Dwight Smith intercepted a wobbly pass thrown by Jackson over the middle. Richardson was the intended target.

  • Second-year cornerback Charles Gordon also returned an interception for a "score." He picked off rookie Tyler Thigpen, who is clearly getting more reps than Drew Henson in the battle for the No. 3 quarterback job.

  • Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell again called the plays during the "live" portion of 11-on-11.

  • At times, the first-team offense went against the second-team defense and vice versa. Regardless, the defense was clearly superior to the offense.

  • Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson got great penetration on one play, reaching Jackson just moments after the snap.

  • Wideout Troy Williamson caught one fastball across the middle from Jackson for a first down, but later bobbled a catchable ball and was walloped by Henderson. Three Vikings had a shot at the interception before the ball hit the turf.

  • During the special teams portion of practice, Chris Kluwe handled the punting chores. Kluwe had a strong session punting to Moore, Chandler Williams and Jason Carter.

  • Kicker Ryan Longwell took time to get acclimated to a fairly stiff left-to-right breeze when it came time to kick field goals. His kicks went wide right from 39 and 33 yards before he made a 33-yarder.

  • New tight end Visanthe Shiancoe continues to show better hands than during offseason workouts.

  • He's flying under the radar, but rookie tight end Braden Jones has soft hands.

  • Receiver Billy McMullen, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie and defensive end Erasmus James, each of them having sat out every training-camp practice to date, continued to work on conditioning.

  • Receiver Todd Lowber and running back Wendell Mathis both sat out practice.

  • At most, there were about 150 spectators. That's striking when compared to Pittsburgh's camp in Latrobe, Pa. Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported that the Steelers had 12,000 fans last Friday night to watch the team practice.

  • Next up: a 2:15 p.m. special teams practice Tuesday afternoon.


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