Lurtsema's Reaction: OTAs, Harvin and more

Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema will be looking for different things out of the players at Thursday's practice than most observers. He previews that and gives his outlook on Percy Harvin, Kenechi Udeze and even a strong opinion on Michael Vick. Catch it all inside.

VU: Organized team activities are here this week and we get a chance to look at the new players Thursday. What are you going to be looking for out of practice?

BL: The biggest thing, with the linemen, I'll watch their feet. I can tell so much there. It's easy to tell if somebody is light on their feet and how they react. Watch some of the agility drills – that will tell me a lot. As far as some of the new receivers go, I want to see how soft their hands are. You can tell when you get somebody like Cris Carter, who would always bring the ball in. Randy Moss is another prime example. It's just so fluid. You get some guys who are just stone hands, they're just not as soft and don't cradle the ball. Then the running backs, like the linemen, I'll watch their feet and that's all I care about in the first go-around.

VU: What do you think of the possibilities of using Percy Harvin in the return game if he has a big role in the offense?

BL: I think that's one of the major reasons they drafted him. It takes time to learn a new system as far as being a receiver, whether you're a receiver or the H-back or the Wildcat or whatever. As far as punt returns go, the Vikings need an explosive, exciting punt returner and apparently he has those capabilities. You throw him in there, I think, immediately because it's not as much of a thinking position, where you have to learn defenses or read defensive backs, etc.

VU: You talk about using him as a receiver. He was in the backfield at Florida and they could use him in the Wildcat formation. What kind of effect would the coaches trying to get creative with him have on the quarterbacks like Tarvaris Jackson and even Sage Rosenfels, who doesn't have much experience in this exact system? Would it make their job harder?

BL: You're not going to make it so complicated that they can't handle it. I think with that style, if they can't adapt to it, then they haven't really got the mental capabilities to survive in the National Football League for 8, 10, 12, 15 years. You've got to be able to learn it. A coach has got to know when he's overloaded a player's mental comprehension. Some players can go only go so far and then they're shut off. It's no different than Kordell Stewart. They tried to work with him and everything and gave him too much. I've had players tell me he's one of the dumbest players they've ever worked with, and not just one or two players but many, many players. That's where your coaching comes in. Don't give them too much. Don't make them think too much. That's why I believe that with football players it's 65 percent coaching. I'll go to my grave on that one and I don't care what position it is. Coaches have got to know when they're overloading somebody, no matter what position. With quarterback and the Wildcat position as well, your mental capabilities have to be obviously a lot stronger than if you were a defensive linemen like myself, or to a degree an offensive lineman.

VU: What are your expectations for Kenechi Udeze this year coming back from leukemia? Would anything that he could do be a bonus, or do you expect that he could get back to the form that he was at before he was diagnosed?

BL: When you're away from the league for a couple years, it's going to take time to get it back. Not as slow as a rookie or anything, but he's going to be big-time rusty. I imagine it will take him all of training camp, but I think he'll improve every game as the season progresses. I would definitely say you'll get something out of him. That's a sure positive, but he will be rusty and you've got to get those hits in. The thing with Kenechi, if he's healthy and strong, you play the hell out of him in the preseason. You play him. You don't let him just do scrimmaging and the walk-throughs in Mankato because that's never full speed. Going from practice to even your first preseason game, my God is that fast. Talk to any rookie and they'll tell you about the first five to 10 games and what a jump in levels it is from the best in college to pros. I think they know it's going to be quicker, but they don't realize to what degree it's going to jump.

VU: Speaking of time away from football and trying to come back, I wanted to get your impressions of Michael Vick and if you think anybody in the league will take a chance on potentially signing him whenever he might be available.

BL: I wouldn't touch him with an 8,000-foot pole. Anybody that touches him is crazy. Number one, he's like Kordel Stewart. The people that know football and know that quarterback position say he is not that great of a quarterback. Of course, he's also been away for a long time. Sure, he's a good athlete; you can bring him along there. But to give him a second chance, he lied so many times during that case that he's had more than second chances. If you bring a guy like that in after what he's done and what the fans have to endure, from demonstrations and everything, you're not being fair to your season ticket holders and your fans.

Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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