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Burleson ready for break-out season

Vikings' receiver returnsto the starting lineup

Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For the second straight season, an injury has pressed Vikings wide receiver Nate Burleson into the starting lineup.

But unlike a year ago, when he jockeyed for a starting role all season with oft-injured D'Wayne Bates, Burleson won't give up the No. 2 job when Marcus Robinson returns from a hamstring injury.

At least, not without a fight.

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"My confidence level is a lot higher (than last season)," Burleson said Wednesday. "I'm going back to the way I felt in college (at Nevada), where I demanded the ball during the game, and I felt like when the ball was in my hands, our team was going to win.

"When you're named the No. 2, there's a pressure on you to perform as a complete veteran. Having that label is going to put pressure on me not only by the head coach, but also by myself. ... I think it's a positive situation."

Burleson finished second among the Vikings' wide receivers with 29 catches and four touchdowns -- modest numbers, to say the least -- in 2003.

The Vikings hoped to solidify their receiving corps in the offseason by signing Robinson, a seven-year veteran with a history of leg injuries, to a four-year, $9.4 million contract.

But Robinson suffered a mild hamstring injury early in training camp and never regained his form, showing only flashes of his playmaking ability between rubdown sessions on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Burleson dazzled coaches with his improved receiving skills and strength and after Robinson tweaked a hamstring before Friday's exhibition loss in Atlanta, Tice officially promoted Burleson to the No. 2 spot.

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