While the Vikings traded for Jared Allen, the great Chiefs defensive end, they are hoping another player capable of putting pressure on the passer gets healthy. Erasmus James has been sidelined because of knee injuries for much of his three pro seasons.

James, a No. 1 draft choice (18th overall) by the Vikings in 2005, was ranked as one of the best pass rushers to ever play in the Big Ten while at Wisconsin.

He isn't taking part in the minicamp this week, other than some stretching, but seems confident he will contribute this season.

"[The knee] feels a lot better than last year," James said. "Everything is coming along fine, so the biggest thing is just getting back out there, which I think I will do.

"I had no surgeries at Wisconsin and then I come here, and it's been kind of difficult. But at the same time, it's kind of put life in perspective. But my knee is getting better, everything's getting better now, and I think I will be out there for the 2008 season.

"I've had three knee surgeries in the last year and a half, which has been very difficult on the knee -- especially coming back last year, trying to come back as fast as I could, especially after that second surgery. But everything's on the way to healing now, and I'll be back, like I said, in 2008."

James said he has never considered giving up the game because of all the injuries.

"Not at all," he said. "That's never been the issue, that's never even entered my mind."

He is trying to be patient while getting himself ready to play.

"I don't want to rush it," he said. "I want to come back and be able to participate and be able to get stuff done. I don't want to come back and have a setback again."

James said he has practically lived at the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility, trying to get the knee in shape.

"It has been five days a week, mornings and afternoons, so it's coming along," he said. "I have a doctor's appointment coming up for a checkup to see as far as when I will be set. I'm not sure as of now, but he said everything's on its way and on time."

Vikings assistant offensive line coach Jim Hueber was on the Wisconsin coaching staff when James was with the Badgers. Hueber will tell you that nobody in the Big Ten had any luck blocking James and that he was the best pass rusher in the conference during his tenure as a Badger.

Ticket priority

After doing a lot of exploratory work, Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said football season ticket holders will get a brochure this month, outlining the point system determining where fans will be seated in the new football stadium, due to open for the 2009 season.

"There will be points for your years of consecutive season [ticket] purchases," Maturi said. "There will be points for donations to TCF Bank Stadium -- obviously we wouldn't be moving into a new stadium without the people who made it a reality. There will be a point system for those who are letter-winners -- they'll get a one-time point bonus. Those who are lifetime members of the Alumni Association as well as graduates of the University of Minnesota, those would [get] one-time points."

For the first time, parents and grandparents will be allowed to pass their seat priority to their families.

"It's a system that we think is fair," Maturi said, "and we will let everybody know. Then there will be a several month process where we want to make sure that the numbers that we think we have are the numbers that you believe you have.

"We are giving more points to those who have had longtime consecutive season ticket purchases than any system that we've found. ... We believe that those are the people that need to be rewarded. They've stuck with us through thick and thin, and I believe it's a fair system."

The system will become public Friday. It will be interesting to see the reaction to the old-time and new season ticket holders.

When promoting the sale of executive boxes and other luxury seats in the new stadium, the plan is to give donors the first shot at those high-priced seats before offering them to the public.


One thing former Gophers football coach Glen Mason can take credit for is developing several fine NFL players who are making a lot of money. Running back Marion Barber III just signed a seven-year, $45 million contract with the Cowboys. Running back Laurence Maroney is signed with the Patriots through 2010 for $8.74 million. Tight end Ben Utecht recently signed with the Bengals for $9 million for three years. Anthony Montgomery is signed for three years at $1.2 million with the Redskins. And Thomas Tapeh signed with the Vikings for five years and $6 million.

Jerry Noyce, a Gophers tennis coach for 15 years, was inducted Wednesday into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame in Tulsa, Okla.

Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith, who is very active in raising money for cancer research and treatment, will play in the ninth annual Coaches vs. Cancer golf tournament June 1-2 at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio. ... The Gophers, after having success recruiting Ralph Sampson III in Georgia, are now after Glen Rice Jr. of Marietta (Ga.) Walton. He's the son of the former Michigan and NBA star. ... Ryan Saunders, son of Pistons coach Flip Saunders, must have impressed Smith with his basketball knowledge last season. The former Gopher will be a graduate assistant on Smith's staff.

Ben Revere, the Twins' 2007 first-round draft choice, is leading the Beloit Snappers of the Class A Midwest League with a .412 batting average. The Twins' 2006 first draft choice, Chris Parmelee, is hitting only .232 but leading the team in home runs (seven), RBI (26) and walks (31).

Ethan Liederman, a 6-3, 185-pound outfielder from Francis Lewis High School in Queens, N.Y., batted .462 in his senior season. He has signed a tender to play baseball for the Gophers.

Former Gophers offensive line coach Gordie Shaw, now offensive coordinator at the University of South Dakota, has recruited safety Shane Potter of Becker, who left the Gophers program. Shaw also could land defensive end Sean McWhirter of Orono, who also decided to transfer from Minnesota.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com