Bennett returns to practice,

Updated: October 22, 2003, 9:21 PM ET

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Michael Bennett went through his first practice of the season Wednesday for the Minnesota Vikings, and the running back was taken off the physically unable to perform list.

Bennett, who rushed for 1,296 yards last year and played in the Pro Bowl, had surgery in July to repair a broken bone in his left foot.

"He looks really good," coach Mike Tice said. "I was tired of him bugging me."

The Vikings can wait three weeks before adding Bennett to the active roster, when they'll have to release someone to make room for him. John Avery, who lost the kick returner's job to either Onterrio Smith or Doug Chapman, is the likely candidate.

Bennett is expected to return to the field for either Minnesota's game against Green Bay on Nov. 2 or the following week at San Diego. The strength of his foot isn't the concern at this point. It's his conditioning.

"How he progresses will tell us when we're going to activate him," Tice said.

Bennett was in a good mood Wednesday.

"The biggest thing I learned was just to go out and appreciate football," he said. "I was thinking, 'Is this it? Am I going to have to retire?' But God works in mysterious ways."


^JEREMY STOCKY:@ Sean Berton, an undrafted rookie from North Carolina State, has solidified himself as the Vikings' No. 3 tight end. This week, he's playing the part of Giants star Jeremy Shockey on the scout team.

It's fitting, since Berton's 6-foot-4, 280-pound frame earned him the nickname "Jeremy Stocky" from Bennett in training camp.

Since then, Berton has slimmed down to 260 pounds and improved enough to persuade Minnesota to cut veteran Byron Chamberlain when he returned overweight from a banned-substance suspension three weeks ago.

"You just get so much better every day on the scout team," Berton said. "Just the physical aspect of it. You don't have to think. It's all on the card."

Berton took Chamberlain's No. 87 this week, which is another story.

Tice wore that number for the Vikings in 1992-93, and he put it on again last Friday in a humorous display of enthusiasm for his team. The 6-foot-8 Tice, a few pounds heavier these days, ran out of the locker room in full uniform into a circle of cheering, laughing players.

"They were keeping 87 for him to wear on Friday," Berton said. "They were saying it's the 20-percent body fat number."


^FURTHER ON INJURIES:@ LB Raonall Smith didn't practice, and he's doubtful for this week's game with a strained hamstring. WR D'Wayne Bates (foot) and DT Billy Lyon (lower leg) both went through a full practice and are listed as probable. WR Kelly Campbell is also listed as probable with a bruised calf, but he was limping noticeably Wednesday and wasn't able to finish practice. Though PK Jose Cortez remains on the roster as insurance for kicking off, PK Aaron Elling's back has improved and he's not on the injury report.


^EXTRA POINTS:@ DE Lance Johnstone, who had 1{ sacks, three tackles, a fumble recovery, a quarterback hurry and an interception return for a touchdown Sunday against Denver, was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week. ... WR Ben Nelson was released to accommodate WR Kenny Clark, who cleared waivers and was added to the practice squad.

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