Doss Talks Free Agency

Safety Mike Doss is scheduled to be a free agent at one of the positions that could see the most change for the Vikings over the next couple of months. See what Doss had to say about his situation after his first season in Minnesota while coming back from a knee injury.

Safety Mike Doss didn't get much of an opportunity to prove himself during the 2007 season with the Vikings, and he finds himself on the free-agent market for the second consecutive year. The latter part sits just fine with the backup safety who was a starter for most his career.

"I could have signed a two (-year deal) and possibly a three, but just the availability and seeing what my options are. Coming in here behind a future Hall of Famer in Darren Sharper and then you've got Dwight Smith, who has two or three years left on his contract, so you don't want to get locked into a long-term deal necessarily," Doss said. "If your opportunity is not here, then you'll get a chance to go back on the market or re-sign and see where you're at. It just felt like coming in here would give me some learning experience without the pressure of being thrust into the starting role coming off the ACL. I've learned a lot in these past eight months about myself and about the business and just about being a true football professional."

After starting 38 games over his first three years in the league, Doss has had to quickly adjust to life as a backup after a torn anterior cruciate ligament robbed him of the second half of his 2006 season. That's why last offseason he decided that a short-term contract would be in his best interest – he could rehabilitate the injury, hopefully get some good playing time in the second half of the season and get a better long-term deal.

More playing time didn't happen late in the season, however, despite Doss saying that his knee was feeling up to 100 percent. Instead, Doss played in only eight games with the Vikings, starting one when Smith was benched for the opening series for a reportedly heated argument with head coach Brad Childress.

"I actually feel like I got over the wall (with the ACL injury) maybe midway through the season, just being able to trust my body and being able to play on special teams and knowing the different plays I've got," Doss said. "I got an opportunity to start against Detroit for a couple of snaps, so I felt like my confidence is growing and I really feel like I'm right there. Once I get another opportunity, I'll be able to showcase what I can do and I'm still Mike Doss as a football player."

That opportunity might not come with the Vikings, who have several decisions to make at safety. First and foremost, they need to decide the fate of starter Dwight Smith, who has played well but received citations for indecent conduct and misdemeanor marijuana possession in downtown Minneapolis in his two seasons with the Vikings. He has also had other disciplinary issues with the coaching staff.

In addition, backup safety Tank Williams is scheduled to become a free agent in March, and Doss is curious to see how the team handles all of their decisions at safety.

"We'll just have to see how that plays out. … I just want to continue to work and perform and show that I'm still a starter in this league. March and February are down the road and all those things will take care of themselves," Doss said late in the season.

While players like Smith and Sharper could determine his fate in Minnesota, Doss says it has been good to learn from them.

"It's just a learning experience. Anytime you can learn from Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith back there, it definitely adds experience to my game," Doss said. "It gives me a chance to get 100 percent healthy from the ACL and not feeling like I'm pressured into a starting role and feeling like I have to perform right then and there. It's been a learning experience for me, a humbling season, going from a four-year starter to just working himself into contribute. But I'm learning from it and just still feel blessed to be in the NFL."

Doss had the advantage of coming to a system that was familiar to him. The Vikings continued to employ the Tampa-2 defense as its base with first-year defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who came to the Vikings after assisting with the defensive backs in Indianapolis. Doss' familiarity with Frazier, the system and his philosophies helped ease the transition to the safety's second NFL team.

"(The systems are) pretty close. A lot more blitzing here. The Cover-2 and Cover-3 concepts are all the same, but the team has definitely become accustomed to Coach Frazier's style of play-calling," Doss said.

"I just think the players are finally buying into the system," he said late in the season. "It was a tough transition when you have a Mike Tomlin, who was a great defensive coordinator in his own right and now is the head coach in Pittsburgh. You have a little adjustment when you go through OTAs in spring and then minicamp. You have to really get some games under your belt for those guys to know the play-calling and then go out there and execute. Once you get some experience, then you go out and execute it and now you see that it's working and now it's going good for you. Ever since the Green Bay game, we've finally tightened up and said now we're going to trust the system."

Which of the safeties the Vikings trust most is yet to be seen.

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