<
>

Ferguson agrees to terms with Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Robert Ferguson hustled out to the
practice field Tuesday in his new uniform, a few minutes behind
schedule and several hours behind on sleep.

The 27-year-old wide receiver has fallen behind in his career
development, too. After moving from one NFC North rival to another
this week, Ferguson was eager for a fresh start with Minnesota --
and the chance to face his former employer, Green Bay, twice this
season.

"That's definitely the icing on the cake. The cake was just
coming here and being around the guys and communicating well with
the coaches and being on the same page with them," said Ferguson,
cut last week by the Packers after falling behind a handful of
younger receivers on the depth chart.

The Vikings were happy to have him.

Despite minimal production over six injury-filled seasons for
Green Bay, Ferguson instantly became Minnesota's highest-profile
receiver when he signed a one-year contract with performance
incentives that could push his salary past $1 million.

Vikings coach Brad Childress has said several times since the
spring that he likes the players at this position, but it was a
glaring deficiency in 2006. Bobby Wade was the only significant
free agent brought in, and second-rounder Sidney Rice was the first
of three receivers taken in the draft.

"If a guy is on the street that we feel like has a chance to
compete and make our team better, we don't ever exclude that guy,"
Childress said, adding: "There are a number of those guys that
have done a nice job, but it's a dog-eat-dog, hand-to-hand
competition at that wide receiver position."

Green Bay's second-round draft pick in 2001, Ferguson was at his
best two seasons later when he caught 38 passes for 520 yards and
four touchdowns. He signed a four-year contract extension after
that, but an infamous clothesline hit by Jacksonville's
Donovin Darius during a game in 2004 sent Ferguson to a hospital with head
and neck injuries and kept him out for the remainder of the season.

He injured his knee and missed five games in 2005, and he played
in only four games last season after hurting his foot. Ferguson,
however, was adamant about being full strength.

"No, it's not 100 percent. It's actually 110 percent," he
said, cracking a slight smile. "It's not an issue at all, and I
look forward to testing it out on Saturday."

The Vikings, who use the same type of West Coast offense the
Packers followed throughout Ferguson's career, play their third
exhibition game Saturday. They host Green Bay in the regular season
on Sept. 30.

Ferguson's hometown is Houston, and Texans offensive coordinator
Mike Sherman was his coach and the general manager who drafted him
with the Packers. It was clear, though, that the greater
opportunity for an impact and playing time was in Minnesota.

After working out for the Vikings on Sunday and for the Texans
on Monday, Ferguson flew back to the Twin Cities with his agent,
Brian Overstreet, and got a deal done shortly before Tuesday's
practice began.

"If I didn't think he had a chance to play, I wouldn't be
bringing him in here," Childress said. "I'm just trying to make
great competition."

With six years in the league, 12 touchdowns and 1,577 yards in
his career, Ferguson is by far the most accomplished Minnesota
receiver. Wade is next, with 1,199 yards and two scores in four
seasons.

"I definitely feel like I have my niche, something I can bring
to the offense," Ferguson said. "We have a great group of guys
right now. I just want to contribute to that."

Safety Darren Sharper, who with kicker Ryan Longwell played with
Ferguson for the Packers from 2001-05, was excited to see him.

"He looked just like he did when I left from there," Sharper
said, adding: "In Green Bay, he was one of the hardest workers on
the team. You have to love guys like that."