Evans ‘available and ready' if needed

Backup nose tackle Fred Evans declined to talk specifically about the Fox Sports report on Pat and Kevin Williams potentially being suspended, but Evans said he is ready for an increased role if needed. Until then, he'll continue to be a backup player on the second-ranked run defense in the league.

Fred Evans could only smile uncomfortably as a talk with one reporter quickly turned into a mass of audio recorders, microphones and cameras.

With Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reporting Sunday that starting defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams had both tested positive for a banned weight-loss diuretic, the attention turned to Evans, Pat Williams' backup.

While Evans acted like he hadn't heard anything about the report on the Williamses, he said that backing up Pat was his first priority.

"That's my primary goal right there and doing good on goal line and providing him relief when he needs to come out of the game. We'll just take it from there," said Evans, who came to the Vikings in the summer of 2007 and served a two-game suspension last year.

Evans estimated he has been getting about 10 to 15 snaps per game this season as the backup nose tackle.

"I'm always available and ready, but that doesn't affect anything. Just ready whenever they need me," he said. "I prepare the same this week like I do every day."

The Vikings likely will have the Williamses available for at least Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, as the defensive tackle tandem was at Winter Park Monday and practicing with the team, but if they are suspended for four games later this season, as the Fox Sports report indicated, it would be a blow to the Vikings' No. 2-ranked run defense, especially after losing middle linebacker E.J. Henderson earlier this year with a season-ending foot injury.

"It would be tough, period. You don't ever want to lose those type of caliber guys, period," said defensive end Ray Edwards. "I don't care what part of the team they play on – defensive backs, cornerbacks, I don't care who it is – you don't want to lose those guys because they're high-caliber guys and they make plays for you."

Defensive end Jared Allen, acquired this year in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, was careful not to talk about the report on the Williamses, but he did comment on what Evans and Ellis Wyms, Kevin Williams' backup, bring to the team.

"Depth. You've got to have depth. Any good team has got to have depth, and fortunately that's what we're striving to get to – greatness. I don't say that to be cocky, but I think that's where every team strives to be," Allen said.

A month ago, Wyms said the defensive line was one of the best in the league, both in starters and in depth.

"I think we've got one of the better front sevens in the NFL," he said late last month. "Our record doesn't reflect that right now, but we've got Pro Bowlers across that front line and I think our second group is just as good as anybody's in the league."

That could be tested if the Fox Sports report is accurate and the appeals fail. It would mean the three starters up the middle – both Williamses and Henderson – would be out for the third quarter of the season.

Napoleon Harris is the likely starter at middle linebacker after David Herron started the three games following Henderson's injury and, after Herron's injury, Ciurciu started the Chicago game.

"He definitely brought experience," Edwards said of Harris. "He's part of this defense in my rookie year and he made great plays, so he's definitely going to bring experience in knowing the scheme and everything."

But the Vikings seem determined to not worry about the report or let the possibility of losing two Pro Bowlers for a month distract them.

"Everybody knows it's just nothing to worry about," quarterback Gus Frerotte said. "You go about your business and you do your thing. That's all you can do. If we had any more power than that, then obviously things would be a lot of different."

NOTES

  • The Vikings rank 12th on offense (eighth rushing and 17th passing) in the NFL and eighth on defense (second against the run and 20th against the pass).

  • The Vikings rank fourth in the NFL with seven opponent fumble recoveries.

  • Over his five starts since Week 3, quarterback Gus Frerotte ranks third in the NFL with 1,286 passing yards. His 10 passes of 25 yards or more are tied for second during that time.

  • Bernard Berrian's seven receptions of 25 yards or more rank fourth in the NFL.

  • The Vikings have more than twice as many penalties and penalty yards as their next opponent, the Houston Texans. Minnesota has been penalized 49 times for 406 yards. Houston has 23 penalties for 174 yards, second in the NFL.


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