Vikings drop McMullen, Pinner, 20 others

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings released 22 players on Saturday to reduce their roster to the regular-season limit of 53, including two fifth-year veterans: receiver Billy McMullen and running back Artose Pinner.

McMullen, who had a career-high 307 yards and two touchdowns last season after he was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, became expendable when the Vikings signed Robert Ferguson last week. Receivers Jason Carter, Cortez Hankton and Martin Nance were also cut.

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Pinner filled in admirably for a game against the Detroit Lions last December when Chester Taylor was hurt, rushing for 125 yards and three touchdowns.

But Pinner and fellow running back Ciatrick Fason, a fourth-round draft pick in 2005 who was also cut Saturday, were bumped down the depth chart on draft day when Adrian Peterson was taken with the seventh overall selection. Mewelde Moore made the team as the third back.

Three other players who have seen significant playing time over the past few seasons, safety Greg Blue, cornerback Dovonte Edwards and tight end Richard Owens, were also released.

Blue was stuck behind four veterans at his position. Edwards was forced out by rookie Marcus McCauley, who emerged as the nickel back early in training camp. Cornerback Charles Gordon made the final roster, too. He's had success as a punt returner.

With backup fullback Jeff Dugan also capable of playing tight end, Owens became the odd man out behind Visanthe Shiancoe and Jim Kleinsasser.

Two seventh-round draft picks, quarterback Tyler Thigpen and receiver Chandler Williams, were also cut.

The rest of the players who were released included safety Patrick Body, defensive tackle Conrad Bolston, offensive lineman Kyle Cook, defensive tackle Howard Green, linebackers George Hall and David Herron, cornerback Chad Johnson, center Norm Katnik, tackle Jimmy Martin, defensive end Khreem Smith, and tight end Stephen Spach.

The Vikings, who finished the exhibition schedule 2-2 with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, are not making players, coaches or executives available for comment until Tuesday.

The team issued a prepared statement from coach Brad Childress: "These are always difficult decisions to make. These guys have put their hearts and souls into the offseason conditioning program and training camp. We wish them all the best in the future."

Thigpen and Williams are strong candidates for the eight-player practice squad that can be assembled starting Sunday - one week prior to the regular-season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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