Vikings to rely on Moe carries
By Dave Campbell
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The competition opened up in the Minnesota Vikings' backfield by Michael Bennett's foot injury didn't initially include Moe Williams, mostly because he does everything well.
"Nothing great," coach Mike Tice said. "Nothing bad."
After a few weeks of training camp, though, it became clear to Vikings coaches that Williams, who shined as the short-yardage back last season, was their best option to be the featured runner.
Williams, who recorded career highs with 414 yards rushing, 251 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns in 2002 as a seventh-year player, will get the bulk of work in Sunday's opener at Green Bay.
"I didn't expect anything," Williams said. "In this league, once you get to expecting things, you set yourself up for disappointment. Because a lot of times it's not up to you."
Williams carved himself a niche as a solid special-teams player and kickoff returner after Minnesota drafted him in the third round out of Kentucky in 1996. He never had more than 69 yards in a season, though, until rushing for 291 with Baltimore in 2001.
The Ravens signed him that year after he was unexpectedly waived, but the Vikings -- attracted by his good hands, pass-blocking ability and professional attitude -- brought him back last year as a free agent.
Bennett had all the long gains, but Williams was the vulture who scooped up all the short touchdown runs and subsequently became a hero of sorts in the world of fantasy football.
"I think I got really known during the offseason," Williams said. "People just talking about fantasy football. They'd be like, 'Yeah, Moe, you scored me a lot of points.' So it was pretty cool."
As was the year in Baltimore.
"I think that was the best thing for my career," he said. "You've never really been in the NFL until you've been cut, you know? I think that was the one thing that brought it all home for me. You truly do try to take everything to the fullest."
Bennett, who won't be back until late October if at all this year, had surgery in July to fix a stress fracture in his foot. Doug Chapman and rookie Onterrio Smith were the leading candidates to replace him as the No. 1 tailback, because of Williams' value as a slashing, situational runner.
Chapman, however, has been nagged by injuries (a sprained ankle has him questionable for Sunday). Smith is still catching up after missing 14 developmental practices earlier this summer (a league rule kept him from participating until Oregon's school year ended) and the first two days of training camp (he held out).
That means mo' carries for Moe.
"He can handle the load if called upon," running backs coach Dean Dalton said.