The signing of defensive tackle Fred Evans was a risk to begin with two arrests in his past, but the fact that he continues to miss practice time isn't boding well for his future.
Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman frequently has talked about the importance of having a roster made up of good character guys. In fact, Spielman said the Vikings eliminated 90 players from their draft board last April because of concerns about the issue.
Given all of this, it came as a surprise when the team announced it had signed free agent Fred Evans to serve as a backup defensive tackle. Evans, a seventh-round pick by the Miami Dolphins
in 2006, has had two recent run-ins with the law and there is no doubt this move comes with a high risk factor.
Evans was arrested as recently as late June after an altercation with police in Miami Beach. That incident is what led the Dolphins to release him. Evans reached a plea agreement on Aug. 16 and avoided jail time.
Evans' first brush with the law came last February in Texas. He pled no contest to misdemeanor marijuana possession; he is due to stand trial on that charge in September because he violated the terms of his probation by being arrested in Miami. Evans also could face a suspension from the NFL, considering the league's tougher policies on conduct.
"I look at each situation individually," Viking coach Brad Childress said when asked about the decision. "It doesn't mean that character is not important. Character is very important to me and to this football team."
Childress made it clear he did plenty of research, saying he talked to more people about Evans than he has for any other player.
"From everybody that you talk to, he was a guy that made a mistake and was paying for it," Childress said. "Somewhere, you make a decision based on what you see, what you know, people you talk to in this business, our coaches spending time with him, and our coaches talking to people that have interacted with him."
The person most familiar with Evans' on-field abilities is Vikings director of player personnel George Paton. Paton held a similar position with the Dolphins when the team drafted the 6-4, 305-pounder from Texas-State San Marcos.
Evans played in only one game in 2006 with the Dolphins, but was expected to compete for a starting position this season. With the Vikings he likely will serve as the primary backup to veteran nose tackle Pat Williams
. Williams will turn 35 in October and is entering the final season of his contract.
Evans missed the Vikings' preseason game Friday against the Jets and has been in Florida ever since trying to get paperwork straightened out (he had been in Miami for his plea agreement), and the incident continues to linger with more missed practices. Evans didn't seem too concerned about playing time when he joined the Vikings and was just happy to be back on an NFL roster.
"My personal opinion is that I was going to let the legal stuff take care of itself," he said. "But if I was blessed with another opportunity, which I felt that I should be, then I would make the best of that and not let it carry over."
The more practices he misses, which may indicate he isn't allowed to leave the state of Florida, the more it is carrying over.
RB Chester Taylor, entering his second season with the Vikings and coming off a year in which he established a franchise record with 303 rushing attempts, will be used sparingly in the preseason. That's not a surprise considering the Vikings know exactly what they have in Taylor. "It's the coaches' choice how much I get to play, so I just do what they tell me," said Taylor, who spent his first four seasons serving as Jamal Lewis' backup with Baltimore. "They rested me a lot more this year."
WR Robert Ferguson, recently released by Green Bay, worked out for the Vikings on Sunday. Ferguson, let go by the Packers on Friday, watched practice and then caught a few passes as team personnel looked on. He was visiting Houston on Monday and is expected to decide between the two clubs as soon as Tuesday.
Backup QB Brooks Bollinger got some practice time working as the holder for K Ryan Longwell. P Chris Kluwe is the primary holder but Bollinger would be used in an emergency. Bollinger has never held in an NFL game, but he did get some practice in that role when he played for the New York Jets.
Veteran S Darren Sharper was among the players happy with coach Brad Childress' decision to lighten the training camp workload this year. Among the adjustments Childress made after several players voiced concerns last year was to cut out two days of two-a-day practices, add a day off and limit the amount done in the afternoon. "It was a little lighter than last year," Sharper said. "I know Coach Childress made it a little less physical."
The Vikings spent extensive practice time early in last week working on their red-zone offense. The team was 22nd in the NFL last season in red-zone efficiency, scoring 19 touchdowns in 42 possessions inside the 20-yard line. They failed to score a touchdown in either trip to the red zone in their first preseason game.
Coach Brad Childress continued to try to lighten things up during practice. A few weeks back he served as a running back during a defensive pursuit drill and ended up rambling 20 yards down the sideline before the ball was knocked loose. Last week, Childress got involved as the Vikings were nearing the end of a drill that had Ryan Longwell kicking what would be a last-second field goal. To set up the play and position the ball correctly, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson took the snap and handed off to ... his head coach. Childress burst up the middle for a few yards before setting the ball down.
The Vikings contract to hold camp in Mankato has been extended through 2011. The previous deal was due to expire after 2009, but as part of an agreement that involved field renovations and other improvements to facilities the contract was lengthened.
The team had excellent luck with the weather this year while in Mankato, making it through the first 17 days of practice without being forced into the campus field house. On the final day, however, an overnight storm made the fields too wet to practice on in the morning.
Linebacker and special-teams ace Jason Glenn decided to retire after being hampered by continued soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. Glenn tore his left ACL last November while playing on punt coverage against the Green Bay Packers.
He returned to training camp this year going full speed but had to be held out of practice Aug. 6 and two days later left the field in pain. Coach Brad Childress said an MRI showed "no structural damage" but added that Glenn's knee "wouldn't let him function."
Glenn could end up working for the Vikings in a player development role.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's the starter if he is healthy. He hasn't done any thing to not be the starter other than he got hurt. If he can make it back, he'll be our starter, and other guys understand that." — Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier talking about DE Erasmus James, who was recently activated off the physically unable to perform list after being out since early last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.