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NFL Preseason Preview - Minnesota (0-0) at San Francisco (0-0)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Randy Moss' second tenure with the Minnesota Vikings wasn't one of the high points of his long and often-controversial career. The decorated wide receiver will be out to prove his first stint as a San Francisco 49er will be a more productive one.
Moss' comeback attempt after a one-year hiatus will be the central focus of the 49ers' 2012 preseason-opening clash with the Vikings from Candlestick Park, with the 35-year-old one of a host of newcomers on a revamped San Francisco offense ready to make their in-game debuts.
Moss last played in the NFL in 2010, when the seven-time Pro Bowl participant compiled career lows of 28 catches and 393 receiving yards while suiting up for three different teams. One of them was the Vikings, who traded for the veteran wideout in October of that year only to cut him after four games following a personality clash with then-head coach Brad Childress.
His first go-around with Minnesota was far more prolific, with Moss recording six seasons with over 1,200 receiving yards and 10 or more touchdown catches during a seven-year run from 1998-2004.
After sitting out the entire 2011 campaign, Moss resurfaced by signing a one- year contract with the 49ers in March and has put together an impressive offseason with his new team. He's expected to be part of the starting offense for Friday's contest as the defending NFC West champions unveil several notable additions to that side of the ball.
San Francisco also signed Super Bowl XLVI hero Mario Manningham away from the Giants while bringing in another of his ex-New York teammates, running back Brandon Jacobs. The Niners also landed a couple of potential playmakers in this past draft, tabbing Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins in the first round and shifty Oregon running back LaMichael James in the second.
Manningham is slated to start opposite Moss on Friday with the oft-injured Michael Crabtree having been slowed by a strained right calf in camp, while Jacobs and James will be competing with second-year man Kendall Hunter for time in the backfield behind workhorse Frank Gore.
The 49ers also entered the preseason with a crowded situation at quarterback after entrenched starter Alex Smith. Colin Kaepernick, the club's second-round selection in last year's draft, currently stands No. 2 on the depth chart, but will have to ward off challenges from free-agent pickup Josh Johnson and fellow sophomore Scott Tolzien.
The Vikings underwent plenty of changes as well over the past few months in an effort to bounce back from a forgettable 3-13 season in 2011, which matched a franchise record for most losses in a single year. Friday's tilt will mark the debuts of a pair of heralded rookies taken in the first round of April's draft, Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil and Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, with both having been installed as immediate starters.
Kalil is the new headliner of a modified front line that will be counted on to help accelerate the development of second-year quarterback Christian Ponder, who had an uneven 10-start introduction as a rookie, but the unit won't be blocking for Adrian Peterson as of yet. The perennial All-Pro running back has made good progress from a major knee injury he suffered in Week 16 of last season, but still likely a few weeks away from being cleared to practice.
Two free-agent acquisitions, tight end John Carlson (sprained knee) and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz (sports hernia surgery), also won't be active for Minnesota in the opener, while the club lost first-year wide receiver Greg Childs for the entire season after the fourth-round pick tore the patella tendon in both knees this past Saturday.
Schwartz had been battling with 2011 sixth-round choice Brandon Fusco for the starting nod at right guard.
The Vikings and 49ers have split six previous preseason matchups, with San Francisco ending a string of three straight losses in the set with a 15-10 home victory in 2010. These teams will also square off in Minneapolis during Week 3 of this year's regular season.
08/09 10:10:11 ET
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