Tice expects all rookies to be signed

Vikings coach hopeful they'll all be in training camp which starts Friday in Mankato

By Sean Jensen

Knight Ridder Newspapers

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Vikings; coach Mike Tice expects his rookie class to be signed by the time players report for training camp Friday.

"Mike Tice is a big fan of (vice president of football operations) Rob Brzezinski. When he looks me in the eye and tells me he's going to get something done, I believe him," Tice said Tuesday. "He told me he's going to have my rookie class in on time by Friday. Until he looks me in the eye, and tells me, 'Coach, we've got problems,' like he did last year, I'm not going to worry at all."


Third-round pick Nate Burleson on Tuesday became the third rookie to sign. The wide receiver agreed on a three-year contract worth $1.439 million, including a $529,000 signing bonus, according to a league source.

Brzezinski also continued talks with the remaining agents for the four unsigned rookies, including Tom Condon, who represents first-round pick Kevin Williams.

As insurance against a holdout by rookie running back Onterrio Smith, the Vikings worked out seven-year veteran Tim Biakabutuka. Tice said the move was necessary because of depth issues. Starter Michael Bennett could miss part or all of the season because of surgery on his broken left foot.

"We've got to make sure with the injury to Michael Bennett and the possibility of not having our rookie class in place by Friday that we have enough talent at the running-back position to have competition," Tice said. "We brought a guy in who has had a decent career and has overcome some injuries. We were excited to see him."

Tice said Biakabutuka's experience is a bonus given the number of young running backs on the roster. Currently, Moe Williams is the only back with significant NFL experience. Tice informed Biakabutuka that the team could be in touch with him later this week.

Smith's agent, Darrell Wills, did not return phone calls Tuesday. Smith told the Pioneer Press on Friday that he has stressed to his agent the significance of being signed by Friday.

Jacksonville signed tight end George Wrighster, selected one spot ahead of Smith in the fourth round, to a three-year deal worth $1.24 million that included a $330,000 signing bonus.

• Former; second-round pick Willie Howard, released Monday, will participate in the minority coaching fellowship program with the Vikings in Mankato.


Burleson signs, Page 4C

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