Special teams units not likely to see overhaul

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 22, 2009 - 11:55 PM

INDIANAPOLIS - Brad Childress doesn't expect new special teams coordinator Brian Murphy to overhaul things, but the Vikings coach does expect to see subtle differences in the unit.

"I don't think there will be wholesale changes schematically," Childress said. "I don't think you'll see us in the Daffy Duck or anything like that punting the ball or rugby punting. I don't know if you guys will be able to discern the changes, but certainly in some of the drill work and certainly in presentation and preparation there will be a different tempo."

Childress promoted Murphy from special teams assistant to coordinator after Paul Ferraro left to become the linebackers coach for the St. Louis Rams. The Vikings gave up an NFL-record seven touchdowns on special teams in 2008, including four on punt returns, and were last in the league in punt coverage, surrendering 14.9 yards per return. They ranked 21st in kick coverage (23.5 yards).

During an interview at the NFL scouting combine, Childress said he felt his offense and defense have an identity and wants the same for the special teams.

"You want a special teams that's holding up their end of the bargain just like you want to know that the offense and the defense are holding up their end of the bargain and that guys put in an equal amount of importance in that special teams area," Childress said. "Identitywise, you'd like to be able to have them take the ball away occasionally. You'd like to be able to have them create better field position."

"It's more of a mentality than anything. ...You can't be a 'Hey, that's below my pay grade' type of thought."

The Vikings already made one move that will affect special teams, releasing kickoff returner Maurice Hicks after he spent only one season in Minnesota. Hicks averaged 23.8 yards on 29 returns and lost his job after committing a costly fumble in the fourth quarter of a loss to Tampa Bay.

The waiting game

The NFL's potential four-game suspensions of Vikings Pro Bowl defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances remains a matter for the courts to decide.

There is a possibility that U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson could rule in the league's favor. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Tuesday. Childress didn't seem concerned about the situation when asked how it could affect the approach to the draft.

"I don't think that you draft with that [in mind]," he said. "I don't machinate over that process."

Etc.

• Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, the top-rated wide receiver in the draft, gave a statement Sunday, confirming he needs surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot but said he will first run his 40-yard dash at his Pro Day on March 26. Crabtreesaid the stress fracture is "an old injury" that hasn't caused him any pain.

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