EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Robert Ferguson hustled out to the practice field Tuesday in his new uniform, a few minutes behind schedule and several hours behind on sleep.
The 27-year-old wide receiver has fallen behind in his career development, too. After moving from one NFC North rival to another this week, Ferguson was eager for a fresh start with Minnesota - and the chance to face his former employer, Green Bay, twice this season.
``That's definitely the icing on the cake. The cake was just coming here and being around the guys and communicating well with the coaches and being on the same page with them,'' said Ferguson, cut last week by the Packers after falling behind a handful of younger receivers on the depth chart.
The Vikings were happy to have him.
Despite minimal production over six injury-filled seasons for Green Bay, Ferguson instantly became Minnesota's highest-profile receiver when he signed a one-year contract with performance incentives that could push his salary past $1 million.
Vikings coach Brad Childress has said several times since the spring that he likes the players at this position, but it was a glaring deficiency in 2006. Bobby Wade was the only significant free agent brought in, and second-rounder Sidney Rice was the first of three receivers taken in the draft.
``If a guy is on the street that we feel like has a chance to compete and make our team better, we don't ever exclude that guy,'' Childress said, adding: ``There are a number of those guys that have done a nice job, but it's a dog-eat-dog, hand-to-hand competition at that wide receiver position.''
Green Bay's second-round draft pick in 2001, Ferguson was at his best two seasons later when he caught 38 passes for 520 yards and four touchdowns. He signed a four-year contract extension after that, but an infamous clothesline hit by Jacksonville's Donovin Darius during a game in 2004 sent Ferguson to a hospital with head and neck injuries and kept him out for the remainder of the season.
He injured his knee and missed five games in 2005, and he played in only four games last season after hurting his foot. Ferguson, however, was adamant about being full strength.
``No, it's not 100 percent. It's actually 110 percent,'' he said, cracking a slight smile. ``It's not an issue at all, and I look forward to testing it out on Saturday.''
The Vikings, who use the same type of West Coast offense the Packers followed throughout Ferguson's career, play their third exhibition game Saturday. They host Green Bay in the regular season on Sept. 30.
Ferguson's hometown is Houston, and Texans offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was his coach and the general manager who drafted him with the Packers. It was clear, though, that the greater opportunity for an impact and playing time was in Minnesota.
After working out for the Vikings on Sunday and for the Texans on Monday, Ferguson flew back to the Twin Cities with his agent, Brian Overstreet, and got a deal done shortly before Tuesday's practice began.
``If I didn't think he had a chance to play, I wouldn't be bringing him in here,'' Childress said. ``I'm just trying to make great competition.''
With six years in the league, 12 touchdowns and 1,577 yards in his career, Ferguson is by far the most accomplished Minnesota receiver. Wade is next, with 1,199 yards and two scores in four seasons.
``I definitely feel like I have my niche, something I can bring to the offense,'' Ferguson said. ``We have a great group of guys right now. I just want to contribute to that.''
Safety Darren Sharper, who with kicker Ryan Longwell played with Ferguson for the Packers from 2001-05, was excited to see him.
``He looked just like he did when I left from there,'' Sharper said, adding: ``In Green Bay, he was one of the hardest workers on the team. You have to love guys like that.''

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