Thomas and Scott have big edge
Kevin Seifert
Star Tribune
Published August 4, 2005

MANKATO -- A mere five days into Vikings training camp, the drama has all but evaporated from what once appeared to be a handful of competitions for starting positions.

Battles for left guard, weakside linebacker and right defensive end have yet to materialize, and coach Mike Tice all but called off those contests Wednesday. Tice said that Dontarrious Thomas is "so much further ahead" of Raonall Smith at weakside linebacker and added that rookie defensive end Erasmus James' holdout has eliminated him as a possibility for the starting right end position.

James' holdout is expected to reach seven days today as he and the Vikings await a further definition of his value as the No. 18 overall pick. Second-year player Darrion Scott has been working with the first team at right end.

"He is out of sight and out of mind for me right now," Tice said of James. "I think we've passed the point of having him anointed at any position. I think anything he earns now, he's got to work his way up the ladder."

Talks with James remained stalled Wednesday amid a three-man logjam of unsigned picks -- Cincinnati's David Pollack, James, and St. Louis' Alex Barron -- in the middle of the draft's first round.

Thomas, meanwhile, appears close to locking down the weakside linebacker job. "He doesn't make the mental mistakes and he's so much more consistent than [Smith]," Tice said. Thomas appears more comfortable and confident this summer after a rookie season set back first by a training camp holdout and then an inability to learn the defense.

"Everything has slowed down a lot for me," Thomas said. "I'm learning how to relax, play football and have fun with it."

Previously, Adam Goldberg won the left guard job after coaches decided to use rookie Marcus Johnson strictly at right tackle. Johnson will back up starter Mike Rosenthal at least until Rosenthal proves fully recovered from a broken foot that caused him to miss 14 games last season.

Tice confirmed that cornerback Fred Smoot, suffering from a strained neck, likely will sit out the rest of the week and return to practice Monday.

Tight end Jim Kleinsasser, whose season ended in the 2004 opener when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, admitted he was held back some in the first few practices. But Wednesday morning, Kleinsasser said he was used in pretty much all the drills and he felt great.

Middle linebacker Sam Cowart sat out team drills Wednesday morning because of general soreness. "There's no sense taking a guy that's older and saying, 'Oh, work your way through the leg soreness,' " Tice said.

Jim Weinstein, senior vice president of sports finance at Sumitomo Mitsui bank New York, visited training camp this week. Weinstein organized the financing for Zygi Wilf's purchase of the team and likely will do the same for construction of a new stadium and entertainment center in Anoka County.