LB Thomas Proves Worth with Versatility

Linebacker Dontarrious Thomas showed in training camp what a versatile backup linebacker he can be, and in the Vikings' first preseason game he also showed what a playmaker he can be.

Dontarrious Thomas isn't one of the Vikings' starting linebackers, but he certainly would qualify as the most versatile. For the second year in a row, Thomas will serve as the primary backup in the middle as well as both outside spots.

Thomas already has spent a good portion of training camp playing in place of injured starter Ben Leber on the strong side and also serving with the No. 2 team as the middle linebacker.

The multiple assignments would be enough to make some players dizzy, but the Vikings' second-round choice from the 2004 draft seems to enjoy the challenge.

"You have to just hit the playbook," said Thomas, who had two interceptions in the Vikings' preseason opener against St. Louis and returned the second 82 yards for a touchdown. "One of the things I pride myself on is being a smart football player. I think a smart football players gets in and studies film, studies his playbook and gets with the coaches and asks questions."

Last season, Thomas played in all 16 games and started three games. One was in place of Leber and the other two came when middle linebacker Napoleon Harris was out because of injury.

Leslie Frazier wasn't coaching in Minnesota in 2006, but the Vikings' new defensive coordinator already has gained an appreciation for Thomas.

"He has done a great job," Frazier said. "He has had to play multiple positions, but he enjoys it because he wants to be on the football field. Wherever we can get him reps, that's what he wants. He spends the time studying so he can be acclimated to each position."

Linebackers coach Fred Pagac said it's not uncommon in the NFL for a team to consider one linebacker to be the primary backup at multiple positions. But Chad Greenway, who has moved into a starting outside role this season after missing 2006 because of a knee injury, admits he's impressed.

"As many blitzes and stuff that we have going in right now it's very tough to decipher," Greenway said. "For me, and I'm playing one position, it's hard enough. So for D.T. to be able to do that is very impressive. He's got speed to play any position and he's physical enough to play any position. He's just a tremendous athlete."

CAMP CALENDAR: The Vikings' final day of practice in Mankato will be on Aug. 16. The team will spend the remainder of training camp working at their practice facility in Eden Prairie, Minn.


  • Linebacker Rufus Alexander, the Vikings' sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma, appeared poised to contribute as a special teams player this season.

    But that won't happen after Alexander injured his right knee in the Vikings' preseason opener against St. Louis. Alexander was removed from the sideline on a cart and was on crutches after game. He suffered a torn ACL and will wind up on season-ending injured reserve.

    That's exactly what happened to Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway in his first preseason game a year ago. Greenway was the Vikings' top draft pick in 2006.

  • DT Fred Evans, who was released by the Dolphins after running into legal trouble, signed with the Vikings. Evans played one game as a rookie for the Dolphins last season. He was released him after being arrested June 23 on Miami Beach, his second arrest of the offseason. He was charged with battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing. He pleaded not guilty to those charges last month. The Vikings have made it very clear that they only want players with high character and coach Brad Childress said he has done a thorough background check on Evans.

  • Coach Brad Childress was upset with linebacker Heath Farwell for a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty he received in the third quarter of the preseason opener against St. Louis. If Farwell hadn't hit Rams quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, St. Louis would have been in a third-and-13 situation.

  • Childress also wasn't pleased with kicker Ryan Longwell and punter Chris Kluwe. Longwell missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt late in the fourth quarter that would have broken a tie; Kluwe, meanwhile, didn't hit the ball to the correct spot on a couple of his punts. One poorly hit ball by Kluwe went 22 yards.

  • Alan Reichow, the doctor who worked with Troy Williamson during the offseason to improve the receiver's depth perception, visited the Vikings' training camp in Mankato. Reichow gave several players new pairs of shaded contact lenses to help them deal with the sunlight.

  • Coach Brad Childress has been credited for being much more loose than he was a year ago during his first training camp. He showed that again in a recent practice when he played the role of a running back during a pursuit drill that the defense conducts. Childress took off down the left sideline and gained about 10 yards before his floppy hat flew off. After another 10 yards, a defender knocked the ball from his hands. "Bad ball security," Childress said, "and bad hat security."

  • Rookie running back Adrian Peterson, who missed five practices because of a contract holdout, missed five more due to a hip pointer. Peterson, though, appeared to have no restrictions on him during the Vikings' preseason game against St. Louis. He had a team-leading 11 rushing attempts for 33 yards and also caught a pass for 2 yards.

  • Defensive end Erasmus James is expected to be activated in the coming days from the physically unable to perform list. James has been out since tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament early last season.

  • Receiver Billy McMullen was activated from the non-football injury list after missing the first 17 practices of training camp because of a calf strain.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I am picking it up. I have definitely got to adjust to the speed. Those gaps, they are just like that (a snap of the fingers). They will be there and then they are closed. So once I get that down and start to pick it up a notch, I think everything will start rolling." — Running back Adrian Peterson, the seventh-overall pick in the draft last April, asked how his transition to the NFL is going after his first preseason game.

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