Vikings add kickoff specialist Cortez, release WR Clark

Updated: October 17, 2003, 8:48 PM ET

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings signed free agent Jose Cortez on Friday to handle kickoffs for Aaron Elling, who has been bothered by back spasms.

Elling will still kick field goals and extra points Sunday against Denver unless he has a setback before the game, coach Mike Tice said.

Cortez was cut in training camp by Kansas City. He had 101 points for San Francisco in 2001, but the 49ers let him go after 10 games last season. He made 18 of 24 field goals, missing two potential game-winning kicks.

Washington signed Cortez for the last four games of 2002, and he made five of eight field goals for the Redskins.

To make room for Cortez, the Vikings released wide receiver Kenny Clark.

Clark will probably be brought back once Elling's back is better and Cortez can be let go. Nick Davis is almost ready to be activated from the physically unable to perform list, though. When that happens, Clark might get bumped to the practice squad and St. Cloud State star Ben Nelson might be released.

But Tice was more concerned this week about having to dress two place kickers, meaning that running back Doug Chapman will be one of eight inactive players against the Broncos. Chapman, according to Tice, had a great week of practice.

"I'm sick to my stomach," Tice said, "but I just don't have any other way to go."

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^ONE JOB FOR NOW:@ Tice considered letting rookie punter Eddie Johnson handle kickoffs to avoid making a roster move, but he didn't feel Johnson was ready for that.

"Eddie needs to focus on his job," Tice said. "That was one option. ... I really think with a young punter, he needs to focus on just punting and get better at his job and not worry about having to do Aaron's job."

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^LOOSE BUNCH:@ The Vikings have had a little fun this week.

Players stood around before the start of Friday's practice, wondering why they weren't starting on time. Then some of them started chanting, as a 6-foot-8 guy in a tight No. 87 jersey came running out of the locker room in full uniform.

It was Tice, wearing the number he had with the Vikings in 1992-93 and sporting the actual set of shoulder pads he wore as a player. He even had the neck roll attached.

Following Thursday's practice, an ESPN camera crew filmed a touchdown celebration competition among the players for an off-the-wall segment that will be shown on the cable network's Sunday pregame show. The fictional hook for the story? That Tice wanted the Vikings to get all the celebrating out of their systems before Sunday to avoid unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

One of the biggest hits was defensive tackle Billy Lyon, who hauled in a pass from ESPN reporter Kenny Mayne, dropped to the ground in the end zone and started break-dancing.

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^INJURY UPDATE:@ Wide receiver D'Wayne Bates (foot) has been making progress this week, but he's questionable and likely won't be ready to play until next week. Lyon (calf) remains questionable.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper and linebackers Chris Claiborne and E.J. Henderson were removed Friday from the injury report.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index