EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice has been trying to take it slow with Troy Williamson.

This rookie isn’t used to doing anything slow.

Tice had wanted to be patient with Minnesota’s top draft pick, hoping to keep the Randy Moss comparisons to a minimum.

Heading into just his fourth game as a pro, Williamson’s considerable skills – and an injury to No. 1 receiver Nate Burleson – have made the speedy newcomer a big part of the game plan heading into Sunday’s game at Atlanta.

“We know that he is a real burner and he plays the ball very well in the air,” Tice said. “We are not holding anything back now due to Nate’s injury. He is in the game.”

Williamson does everything fast. He learns fast, eats fast and talks fast.

Oh yeah, he runs fast, too. Williamson ran in the low 4.3s in the 40-yard dash at the combine.

“Any football player that has speed, that’s a good thing,” Williamson said. “You can learn everything else, but you can’t teach speed. I’m glad that I was blessed with that asset. I can learn how to learn a route and catch a ball, but you can’t learn how to run fast.”

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the seventh overall draft choice out of South Carolina to show what he can do. In the second quarter of last week’s win over New Orleans, Williamson got behind man coverage and hauled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Daunte Culpepper that propelled the Vikings to victory.

“It felt real good,” Culpepper said. “Just putting it out there and letting him run and get it. That’s what I like to do … and we have been doing that for years in this offense. We have to keep that in the back of people’s minds that we can hit you over the top if you are not careful.”

Williamson finished with three catches for 83 yards and let opposing defenses know that the Vikings’ offense is still dangerous, even without No. 84.

The Vikings’ offense has struggled mightily to find an identity without Moss, who was traded to the Raiders after seven record-setting seasons in Minnesota. The Vikings selected Williamson over USC receiver Mike Williams for his speed and game-breaking ability, two things that were in short supply when Moss was traded.

Even though he is only a rookie, and light-years away from the ultra-talented Moss, opposing coaches are already getting the message.

“Especially after the play he made last week,” Atlanta coach Jim Mora said. “You saw what happens if you let him off the line clean. He can just go. … The kid has got the ability to be special – really, really special.”

Saints’ backup cornerback Jason Craft can attest to that. Craft was the one who was torched by Williamson on the play, which included a perfectly thrown pass from Culpepper.

“I pretty much knew I had him beat right when he was up on the line,” Williamson said. “I just turned it up and ran right by him and did what I had to do to catch the ball.”

And at 6-foot-1, 203 pounds, Williamson is no Dante Hall.

“He’s big, he’s physical, he’s fast, he catches the ball well on the run,” Mora said. “There are a lot of things that the guy does that really scare you.”

While Tice promised to ease the youngster into the rotation at receiver this season, Culpepper knew Williamson would force his way onto the field much sooner.

“After working with Troy, you get to see what type of player he is and the type of mental game he has,” Culpepper said. “He is a very strong player mentally and he wants to go in there and make big plays. The things that I like about him is he pays attention to detail and he knows his assignments very well.”

With Burleson out again this week with a strained knee, Williamson figures to factor into the team’s plans against a physical and fast Falcons’ defense.

He’ll be ready.

“That’s what every rookie should do is go out there when they have the opportunity and make due with what he gets,” Williamson said. “There’s still a lot of stuff that I need to work on. Just try and get better as I go along.”

AP-ES-09-28-05 1732EDT


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