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Saturday, April 26, 2003
Slow on trigger, Vikings miss pick

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Justifiable or not -- and there are those on both sides of the fence -- the Minnesota Vikings are catching heat for a second consecutive year, thanks to a botched first-round maneuver.

The Vikings were forced on Saturday to make a rare "pass" on their first-round choice, the seventh pick overall, when they were unable to complete a proposed trade with the Baltimore Ravens before the 15-minute time limit lapsed.

By taking a "pass," the Vikings delayed their choice, but were permitted to then make it at any ensuing time.

But in frenzied flury in the minutes immediately following the Minnesota move, Jacksonville, choosing No. 8 overall, rushed in its card to pick quarterback Byron Leftwich.

In lightning time after that, Carolina jumped in to choose offensive tackle Jordon Gross.

Minnesota finally exercised its pick at the No. 9 slot, selecting defensive tackle Kevin Williams, one of the fastest-rising players in the lottery.

But by that point, the public relations damage had been done.

"I'm pissed," said Vikings coach Mike Tice. "There is no other way I can put it."

The background: While on the clock Saturday, the Vikings were discussing trades with three teams -- Baltimore, Jacksonville and New England -- all at the same time. Minnesota officials finally settled on the Ravens proposal, a deal that would have permitted Baltimore to jump up three spots and select the much-coveted Leftwich.

In return for moving down to the Ravens' spot at No. 10, the Vikings would have gained additional choices in the fourth and sixth rounds.

The Vikings insist they turned in their card to NFL officials, indicating the trade, with about 32 seconds remaining on their time limit. But the league apparently did not have verification from Baltimore on its side of the deal.

The Ravens, while acknowledging the trade was agreed upon, contended it was not made official because they didn't speak with league official Joel Bussert.

"The deal was not consummated,'' general manager Ozzie Newsome told the Associated Press at Baltimore's headquarters. "A deal is not a deal until I talk to Joel Bussert, and I never talked to Joel Bussert.''

One Ravens official did insist, not for attribution, that team officials attempted to call in the trade but that NFL officials did not answer the telephone. League officials denied that contention.

Last year, the Vikings were involved in another awkward situation. That day, the Dallas Cowboys traded down from No. 6 to No. 8, and the clock appeared to run out on their trade partner, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Vikings, choosing at No. 7, attempted to submit the name of defensive tackle Ryan Sims, but were told by league officials the Chiefs had legally handed in their card to take the North Carolina star.

Instead of getting Sims, a defender they openly coveted, the Vikings were left to take offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie. The former Miami star then become embroiled in a contract impasse and didn't sign with the Vikings until well into October.

Unlike a year ago, when they made no secret of the fact they preferred Sims over McKinnie, the Vikings were adamant Saturday they got the prospect they wanted anyway, in Williams. The Oklahoma State star was rated higher on the Minnesota board than other defensive tackles who were still available and higher than cornerback Marcus Trufant.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.