Reviving a career
Reviving a career
Alexander eager to prove himself as a top receiver
By Dave Campbell
MANKATO, Minn. --
Derrick Alexander's former team was in town Friday for a practice against his current employer, and he got a steady stream of greetings from old friends.
But trying to help make the Minnesota Vikings' offense better is all the speedy wide receiver can be concerned about right now.
"It's a great opportunity here," Alexander said earlier this week. "People are going to say what they're going to say, but when Sunday comes, it's game time and I produce."
His production, and his health, lagged last season, his fourth with the Chiefs and his eighth in the NFL. So Kansas City cut him to clear space under the salary cap.
Minnesota, needing someone to step in for the retired Cris Carter, signed him to a three-year, $5.1 million contract.
But Alexander, limited during practices this week by a strained calf muscle, hasn't been handed the No. 2 receiver spot opposite Randy Moss. D'Wayne Bates, signed as a free agent from Chicago, is ahead on the depth chart.
Admittedly a little out of shape during his first workouts with the team at a minicamp in June, Alexander didn't get off to a great start with coach Mike Tice.
"I told him that's not how we work around here," Tice said. "He's going to have to come in great shape or else D'Wayne Bates is going to beat him out. It's as simple as that."
Bates has benefited from more time with the playbook. Alexander is still digesting it.
"When you're thinking," Tice said, "you really can't run at full speed because you're spending a lot of time saying, 'OK, what do I do here? How do I adjust that route?' And it will take him a little bit longer to grasp what we're doing and feel comfortable with it. "
Alexander caught only 27 passes for 470 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games while sustaining rib and Achilles injuries. His best season came in 2000, when he had 78 receptions for 1,391 yards and 10 TDs.
Before coming to the Chiefs in 1998, Alexander was drafted out of Michigan and began his pro career with Cleveland in 1994 and went with the Browns when they moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens two years later.
At times during training camp, he's felt a little like a rookie again.
"I came in so late," Alexander said, "I've kind of been fumbling around a little bit, but I'm getting it."
Moss, and everyone else, knows the Vikings are going to get him the ball as much as they possibly can. But significant contributions from a second receiver will make his job much easier.
"It's going to be very interesting to see what goes on," Moss said. "I know that both of them can play in any situation. It's going to be scary for other teams. You have to keep track of me, and we also have other weapons on the team."
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper will miss having Carter as a target, but he's excited about Alexander's stretch-the-field ability. "He is a blazer," Culpepper said. "He's going to get open down the field, and we're going to get him the ball."