Injury-depleted Vikings bring back LB Harris, release FB Tapeh to clear space

Updated: October 16, 2008, 8:36 PM ET
Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings ended fullback Thomas Tapeh's homecoming six games into the season to make room for linebacker Napoleon Harris.

The Vikings brought back Harris on Thursday to help at the injury-ravaged position and waived Tapeh to make room on the roster after putting him on the inactive list as a healthy scratch for the past four weeks.

It was a curious move for a team that gave Tapeh a five-year contract with $1.2 million in guaranteed money on the first day of free agency, but coach Brad Childress recently hinted this was coming when he claimed Tapeh didn't disclose a minor knee surgery he had shortly before signing.

Tapeh's cubicle was already cleared out with the nameplate removed when the locker room was opened to reporters, and Harris -- wearing No. 99 because all the 50s are taken -- was on the field for the afternoon practice.

Childress, who recruited Tapeh when he was at the University of Wisconsin and coached him as the offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles, said the 28-year-old took the decision "like a man" and was simply surpassed in his role by Naufahu Tahi. Tahi has contributed on special teams, too.

"Fahu obviously ended up as the starter. That's who you think is the better player," Childress said.

By arguing they weren't fully aware of Tapeh's condition when they made their offer, the Vikings could recoup some of the bonus. Childress declined to comment on the issue of a settlement. Tapeh's agent, Craig Domann, did not return an e-mail.

"Good football teams have competition, and it just turned out that Fahu did more things than him [Tapeh] to make himself valuable," Childress said. "I would have to commend Fahu and not take anything away from Thomas."

Harris became available through a similar situation.

He parleyed a solid season as Minnesota's starting middle linebacker in 2006 into a six-year contract with Kansas City worth up to $24.5 million, including $7.5 million guaranteed. He led the Chiefs with a career-high 123 tackles last season, but lost his starting job when the team went younger and did not appear in a game this fall. Harris was released on Tuesday.

Kansas City coach Herm Edwards gave Childress "nothing but superlatives about him," according to the Vikings coach.

Both Harris and Dontarrious Thomas, who was signed on Monday, were being prepped to start at the linebacker position vacated when defensive MVP E.J. Henderson suffered a season-ending foot injury. David Herron filled in last week, but he hurt his hip and hasn't practiced at all this week.

"It just gives you confidence in that you don't have to completely change what we have been doing," Frazier said.

Harris was courted by several other teams, but Henderson encouraged him to return to the Vikings.

"E.J. said, 'Hey, come here, man. You know the guys. It's a great organization, a great scheme. You'd fit right in,'" Harris said. "So I took my good friend's advice."

Harris called the situation with the Chiefs a relationship that didn't work.

"They went their way and did what they had to do, and fortunately I have an opportunity to play football here," he said. "All I know is I went there last year, played in all 16 games, didn't play nickel, led the team in tackles. You tell me.

"Men lie. ... Numbers don't."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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