The 2002 Vikings season didn't exactly go according to Doug Chapman's hopes. Of course, as a third-year NFL player Chapman was smart enough to know that he really can't plan on anything in the NFL.
His hopes came crashing down hard on Oct. 20, 2002, when he was returning a kickoff and absorbed a hit to the midsection. He suffered serious internal injuries, was hospitalized and, three days later, placed on injured reserve, ending a season in which he had hoped to find a role and excel.
He was hoping for an increased role because, according to Chapman, he was told before the season, "I'd be competing with Michael (Bennett), and the two of us would be the two backs. But as it went, I got injured and Moe Williams took the short-yardage role. That's just the way it goes. I'm not angry about it at all. That's just part of the game. It's a violent sport. I just happened to be the one that got injured. I'm healthy now and looking forward to next year being productive."
Chapman did show a renewed focus before being injured, breaking off a career-long 27-yard run against Buffalo in the second week of the season, a game in which he also returned four kickoffs for 82 yards, both career highs. His chances to carry the ball didn't come often — he had 12 carries in six games in 2002 — but he showed improved patience and burst while averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
Then came the injury, and the rest of the season was lost for him, but Chapman told VU after the season that he is ready to go for 2003.
"I'm definitely 100 percent now," he said the day after the Vikings' season-ending win at Detroit. "I'm definitely on my way back. It just took time. I'm healthy now, and I'm ready to get things going toward next season."
He is a restricted free agent, but chances are the Vikings will look at his contributions from 2002 and make the decision to bring him back. The biggest factor in how much of an opportunity Chapman gets in 2003 might lie in the Vikings' decision on unrestricted free agent Moe Williams. If the team either can't or elects not to re-sign Williams, then Chapman could enter 2003 as the leading candidate for the short-yardage role. If Williams is re-signed, Chapman would be back to where he was during minicamps and training camps in 2002, trying to beat out Williams for that role.
"That's something I can't control," Chapman said of the Vikings' thought process on himself and Williams. "I definitely want to contribute. Talent-wise, I know no matter where I am I'm going to play. But I'd definitely like it to be here.
"That's out of my hands. I'd definitely like to return to Minnesota. I'm comfortable here. That's who I was drafted by, and I've got a lot of friends. I like the coaching staff, but what happens on the paperwork side, the business side of football, I can't control that. All I can do is control what I do on the football field. I'd love to be here, but if it's not, that's just the way it goes sometimes."
He makes no pretenses about where he'd like to play. Minnesota is his first choice for a number of reasons, one of them being offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. "I like the system," Chapman said. "You can see we led the NFL in rushing and we were in the top 10 in passing. We just have to get more consistent at it and get better as a team. We're definitely going to have a better year next year."
Another reason is the close relationship Chapman has with fellow Marshall alum Randy Moss and quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Once again, Chapman will be working out with those two during the offseason in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the running back says he'll start his workout program in February and be going back and forth between his native Virginia, down to Florida, and back to Minnesota for larger scale workouts with more teammates — if they are still his teammates in March. It's likely they will be, but that is the uncertainty NFL free agents have in January and February.
Chapman Looking To Rebound In 2003
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