Berrian, however, might not be the only Vikings player who can fill this role in the 2008 season. Second-year players Sidney Rice and Aundrae Allison appeared sharp and more confident during the OTA practices and minicamp practices that were open to the media.
The speedy Allison caught a number of long passes from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and could be ready to take an important step in his development.
Rice had a productive rookie season — his four touchdown catches led the team — and has added about eight pounds to his 6-4 frame. That would put him around 210 pounds.
"Anytime you get in the offseason lifting program and offseason conditioning program and then you're taking the time individually with a position coach every day to just learn some things that may not have been rote to you, I think you can't put a premium on that," coach Brad Childress said when discussing the development of the second-year players.
Rice, a second-round selection, has soft hands and is one of the Vikings' best pure receivers. He can be a deep threat and also cause match-up problems for opposing defensive backs in jump-ball situations in the back of the end zone.
Allison only had eight receptions for 122 yards after being taken in the fifth round of last year's draft. He did turn into a productive kickoff return man and led the NFC and ranked third in the NFL with a kickoff-return average of 28.7 yards.
He also showed his athletic ability by registering the longest play in Vikings' history with a 104-yard kick return for a touchdown in a December victory over Detroit.
With Maurice Hicks having been signed as a free agent to possibly handle kickoff duties, Allison's biggest contribution could come in a receiving role.
"Coming in as a first-rounder there's a lot of pressure on you," said James, who was taken by the Vikings in the first round of the 2005 draft and battled knee injuries the past two seasons. "A lot of guys think because you're a first-rounder, you're going to come in and start. ... And that's the worst thing to come in as, especially as a rookie with people like that, because you can't get any help. It's kind of like you fend for yourself. It's nice to be around older guys who are not out there to say, ‘Hey, there's this new guy coming in.' It's not like that at all. You can learn from these guys. I'm real excited about that."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's been great. He listens. I can talk to him. He's got so much ability. I don't talk to him a lot because obviously right now he knows a heck of a lot more about the offense than I do because he's been in it for three years. But I just give him little tips on what he should look at doing. He's really doing well out here. I'm really impressed. He knows the offense, knows what the coaches want. I think it's going to be a good relationship." — Veteran quarterback Gus Frerotte on working in a mentor-type role with starter Tarvaris Jackson.