When Mike Tice spoke about the signing of RB John Avery Thursday, speed was the word. Avery is not expected to supplant Michael Bennett as the go-to back, but be a third-down back and kick returner.
His signing could put a lot of pressure on WR Nick Davis, who returned kicks and punts last year. If the Vikings are convinced Avery, a former No. 1 pick of the Miami Dolphins who has jumped around the league with the Dolphins, Broncos and Cowboys -- as well as stints in the XFL and CFL -- can do kick return chores, Davis may be on the bubble.
Avery reportedly had interest from both the Jaguars and Buccaneers, but chose the Vikings as his best option for playing time.
VU has been told he signed a one-year deal for veteran minimum with a signing bonus of $50,000 or less.
* Following up on a story reported by VU earlier this month, Willie Shaw will in fact be coming back to the Vikings as an assistant working directly with Tice. Shaw was fired at the end of the 2002 season, but needed one more year as an assistant coach to be fully vested in the league's pension plan. By coaching this year, he will reach that plateau.
* The 49ers have been pumping up Dennis Green for every other coaching vacancy but their own. It now appears that the Niners talked to more than a half-dozen college coaches as well as a handful of NFL assistants before tabbing Dennis Erickson for the job. Why no Green? VU continues to be told that, if Green had been hired, Terrell Owens would have left. Never underestimate the power of marquee players. If you noticed, the first thing Erickson said after being hired is that he wants to open up the offense and use T.O. Go figure.
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