Throughout training camp, the preseason and the early stages of the regular season, Vikings rookie wide receiver Troy Williamson has been brought along slowly.
But with No. 1 receiver Nate Burleson likely out for Sunday's game against New Orleans because of a sprained knee, it's time for the seventh overall pick in the draft to accelerate his development.
"We don't have any choice now," Minnesota coach Mike Tice said. "With Nate being out, we don't have much choice whether we wanted to bring him along slowly. We gave him a lot of plays the other day. He had a lot of plays and played OK."
Williamson didn't see any balls thrown his way in the opener against Tampa Bay, though he played a handful of snaps. Against Cincinnati last week, Williamson's 21-yard reception in the third quarter was the first of his career and he finished with two catches for 44 yards.
Williamson also returned kickoffs in both games, taking all but one against the Bengals.
"Nate being hurt is something we'll have to overcome," Williamson said. "As far as me, it's just about being ready to play when it's time that they want me to play. I feel like I'm ready for it. If push comes to shove, I'm ready to go in. No big deal."
Williamson likely will get some competition both at wide receiver and kick returner from Koren Robinson, who Tice said would suit up this Sunday against the Saints. Robinson hasn't been active since signing earlier this month, but he has been studying the offense and is ready to play.
"Before Nate got injured, we felt that his best chance to find a reason to suit him up would be to return kicks," Tice said. "Now that Nate is injured, that doesn't need to be the fact. How much of a role he has we'll see as the week progresses."
But Robinson isn't expected to usurp Williamson's role as the top kickoff returner.
"He'd be an option," Tice said. "I'd love to see Troy get it going with all that speed."
LEAVE 'EM ALONE: Coach Marvin Lewis is concerned about how his up-and-coming Bengals are going to handle the spotlight if they keep winning. His solution: See no media, hear no media, speak to no media.
Lewis has told his players to limit their dealings with reporters, who he sees as a potential distraction. He doesn't want them to realize that long-suffering Cincinnati fans are getting carried away by the team's 2-0 start.
"They don't pay attention to it. As long as they don't hear it from you, they're not going to know it," Lewis told reporters. "It's not like they sit around reading the newspaper. So we just have to go about our business. They're going to say 'no' to your requests. We're going to keep it as tight as we can."
The crackdown started in the offseason, when the Bengals were picked as a playoff contender. Lewis ordered his players not to give their phone numbers to the media. Some complied, others ignored him.
It didn't stop there.
After a season-opening win at Cleveland, the coach was displeased that rookie middle linebacker Odell Thurman talked to the media at length about his impressive performance. The two of them had a talk.
"He just said, 'Just don't say too much. Just get your point across and that's enough,' " Thurman said.
The rookie has been more reserved since then. The same can't be said for receiver Chad Johnson, who has a local radio show. Johnson is more careful about what he says, but won't stop talking.
His take on Lewis?
"Too Tom Coughlin-like right now," he said, comparing him with the authoritarian Giants coach.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Indianapolis Colts running back Ran Carthon hopes his father sees how much he's learned.
A year ago, Carthon was an undrafted rookie looking for an NFL job. On Sunday, he could be the Colts' top backup to Edgerrin James.
Carthon's father, Maurice, is Cleveland's offensive coordinator. The elder Carthon spent the previous two years in the same role with Dallas, a tenure that included a sometimes challenging two-week stint last fall when father and son were reunited.
"That was hard," the younger Carthon said. "I was staying at home, and if I didn't answer something right in a team meeting, I'd come home, maybe sit on the couch and watch some TV, and he'd push me in the head and say, 'Shouldn't you be studying your playbook?' "
Apparently, the younger Carthon's study skills have improved.
When the Colts played Jacksonville last weekend, Carthon scored his first career touchdown on a 6-yard run that gave Indianapolis a 7-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
He could get more action this weekend. Dominic Rhodes has a bruised left shoulder and may sit out. Third-string running back James Mungro is expected to miss the game with a sprained knee ligament.
If Rhodes can't play, Carthon could run the ball and have a chance to excel on special teams, just as his father did under Bill Parcells with the New York Giants. Colts coach Tony Dungy said he probably would use Carthon on kickoff returns.
But don't expect the younger Carthon to pry his father for secrets during dinner Saturday night. The younger Carthon doesn't have a Browns playbook, can't describe his father's play-calling tendencies and wants to enjoy their first meeting as opponents. Besides, he has something to prove.
"I saw the game Sunday and they did some off-the-wall things," the younger Carthon said. "Hey, he has a job to do, and I have a job to do. Hopefully, I'll do my job better."
WHO'S THE REAL MANNING? After two games, Eli Manning, in his second year with the New York Giants, has a better passer rating than his brother Peyton, who has won two consecutive NFL MVP awards with Indianapolis.
Eli's rating is 76.3, 18th among NFL quarterbacks. Peyton's is 74.7, which puts him two spots behind his younger brother.
Although it's obviously early, it's a drastic falloff for Peyton and an improvement for Eli, who as a rookie last season had a rating of 55.4 in the seven games he played, winning only the last one. The Giants have won both games this season and he was 13-of-25 for 165 yards with a touchdown pass and no interceptions in Monday night's 27-10 win over New Orleans.
Last year, Peyton set NFL records with a rating of 121.1 and 49 touchdown passes.