By the end of the fourth quarter, however, it was the veterans who were running onto the field to congratulate the young players.
With the Vikings leading 17-14 against the Kansas City Chiefs, the rookies and other roster hopefuls made a goal-line stand reminiscent of many we've experienced from the veterans over the last couple of years.
"It's huge," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said when asked about that series of game-deciding plays. "As a defense, we talk about defending a blade of grass. Just give us a chance to defend a blade of grass. For the young guys to buy into that this early and go out and do what they did gets you excited and makes you feel good about those guys."
With 55 seconds to go, the Chiefs were facing first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Defensive end Martail Burnett stuffed running back Javaris Williams for no gain. On second down, safety Jamarca Sanford got fullback Jed Collins out of bounds before he reached the goal line. Burnett and Jimmy Kennedy kept running back Jackie Battle from crossing the goal line on a third-down run, and on fourth down Ashley Lelie was forced out of the back of the end zone to preserve the Minnesota win.
"As far as depth, this is the best depth of any team I've been on. You saw our backups in there with a goal-line stand. Four plays on the 1-yard line. That was pretty impressive," defensive end Jared Allen said. "I think that's what makes a quality team is the people playing behind you. As you know, injuries and fatigue are part of this league. You can't expect Pat or Kevin to play 80 plays a game, or 60 plays a game. You've got to have good quality backups rolling in and our young guys are playing well. We got E.J. (Henderson) back so I like where we're at right now. We're firing pretty well on all cylinders."
Allen was one of the veteran defensive linemen that rushed the field following that last-second goal-line stand and congratulated the younger players.
"It was awesome to see Pat Williams and Kevin Williams and all those guys cheering for them and rooting them on," Frazier said. "We've seen our number ones do that before and now to get the young guys winning as well is great for our defense and our team."
DEFENSE GETS STRONGER
Pat Williams hasn't played yet this preseason, but that will change on Monday night, according to defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who said Williams sitting out the first two preseason games had nothing to do with an injury.
"Pat's played many, many preseason games. It's not as important for him as it is for some of our younger guys," Frazier said. "The third preseason game is the one that he'll play in. It's nothing to do with him physically or anything. It's just a decision that we've made."
Defensive end Jared Allen, another Pro Bowl player, will also return to the field. Allen missed last week's preseason game against the Chiefs with an ankle injury but likely would have played if it were a regular-season game.
Last week, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Seniors Committee convened to select the two way-back-when players that will be among the finalists next January when the full voting contingent decides the 2010 inductees into football's highest honor. The Seniors Committee chose Lions cornerback Dick LeBeau and Broncos running back Floyd Little. It was another missed opportunity for former Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, who didn't miss any opportunities to play during his days in purple
Tingelhoff started 240 consecutive games, never missing a start in his 17 seasons and was named All-Pro seven consecutive seasons. He also played in six consecutive Pro Bowls and was honored as the NFL's top blocker in 1969. He was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2001.
Holt was the second receiver released by the Vikings in the last month and both were Drew Rosenhaus clients. Another of the agent's clients, Bernard Berrian, shouldn't have anything to worry about when it comes to his roster status, but it's uncertain if Berrian's hamstring will be sufficiently healed to play in Monday night's game against the Houston Texans.
The Lions weren't settling for just receivers when it comes to signing ex-Vikings. They also signed former Vikings linebacker Rufus Alexander, who was waived by the Colts in May.