Bernard Berrian has 42 million reasons to be smiling after signing a six-year, $42 million contract that has $16 million in incentives.
But in Berrian's case, there are also other reasons he is excited to be moving to a new team in 2008 after spending his first four seasons with the Chicago Bears. First among those reasons is his expectation for the Vikings offense and how he fits into it – mainly, being viewed as the Vikings' top receiving threat.
"It is pressure, but it just depends on how much pressure you want to put on yourself. If you think about it as being pressure, then it's just going to be forced pressure that you don't really need," he said. "I've been waiting to get into a situation where I can be that guy, where he's always getting the ball or he wants the ball. I want to be that player – when the game is on the line, he's getting the ball."
Coming to a new team means getting familiar with new teammates, which is one of the reasons Berrian is trying to take advantage of the Vikings' offseason conditioning program that started last week.
The sooner the 6-foot-1, 185-pound deep threat gets accustomed to the coaches, schemes and players surrounding him, the sooner things will start to look better for the offense. That familiarity can be especially beneficial when plays break down and it's time to improvise.
"It's definitely important that we get that all settled now, (so when) we get into camp we already know each other's ins and outs," Berrian said. "You've got a feel for each other where you don't have to sit there and think or worry, well, is he going to try to do this or is he going to do that."
"He" is Tarvaris Jackson, the Vikings' starting quarterback that has worked in a couple of throwing sessions with Berrian already.
"He's definitely got a strong arm. From the times we were out there, he was pretty accurate with it. From the times that we were off, it's just getting used to each other. Besides that, he was right on the money with it," Berrian said. "From all the quarterbacks and all the receivers on the team, I like what I see. From the coaches, they're asking for everything we've got out on the field."
That's fine by Berrian, who says he likes to be tested while learning a new offense. He wants to hear the play called and then explain what he knows about that play.
What he knows so far is that the Vikings don't lack a running game. Just like the addition of Berrian should help the Vikings' passing game, the continued emergence of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor should work to free up Berrian, maybe more often than he became accustomed to in Chicago.
That's another attraction to joining the Vikings on the second full day of free agency.
"Oh, definitely. (Defenders) are going to have to make a choice. They are either going to play off, have safety help over the top, or they're going to let Adrian and Chester run all day. I'll be satisfied if they're running all day as long as we win."
That's exactly what happened against Berrian's Bears in 2007, when Peterson had his first huge breakout game with a 224-yard performance at Soldier Field in a 34-31 Vikings win. That opened Berrian's eyes to just how good Peterson could be.
"At first, I didn't think he was going to be (gaining) as much as we saw, and then when I saw it live, I was kind of shocked. I don't get shocked by too many players, but he shocked me a lot. So he was definitely a selling point," Berrian said.
For all of those reasons, Berrian is hearing that the Vikings might be the team to beat in the NFC North after former Packers quarterback Brett Favre retired.
"I have heard that a lot, but you've still got to out there and prove it. Every season, every year it's different. Someone you never thought was going to win could be up at the top," he said.
For now, with the season still almost six months away, Berrian is just happy to get to know his teammates and work toward building relationships that can be advantageous during the regular season.
"I've talked to a lot of players. That's one thing I noticed around here – when I first got here, a lot of players came up and introduced themselves and we've done some things, gone out to dinner and done some things off the field right away. I like that a lot around here.
"When you first get to Chicago, it's more of a prove-yourself kind of thing. You don't get respect right off the bat. You've got to go out there and prove yourself."
With a large contract signed, Berrian realizes he'll still have to prove himself in Minnesota, but he's feeling pretty good about his chances with his supporting cast.
Berrian Embracing Role, New Teammates
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