Distractions Make Vikings Primed For Defeat

The Vikings were once the division favorite, but all things have taken a turn for the worse in Minnesota. If the Bears can't take advantage of a vulnerable Vikings team it could turn into a long season.

The Vikings might not have played a game since their embarrassing 30-10 loss to Atlanta in Week 4, but the turmoil surrounding the team has only deepened in the meantime.

The latest incident was an outing aboard a pair of chartered boats on Lake Minnetonka that ended with allegations of lewd behavior by several players. Cornerback Fred Smoot and defensive end Lance Johnstone reportedly set up the outing last Thursday during the bye week. Police are investigating and it's unclear if charges will be filed.

All of this only added to the soap opera atmosphere at the Vikings' Winter Park complex as they prepared for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears at Solider Field.

The Vikings, considered a favorite in the NFC by many, are 1-3 and coach Mike Tice's job security is openly being questioned.

"Incidents like these can either blow a team apart or pull a team together. It's my job to pull the team together," Tice said. "Obviously, our job is to get ready for Chicago and allegations like these don't make it any simpler."

In an effort to right things on the field, the Vikings have added retired coaches Jerry Rhome and Foge Fazio to the staff. Rhome, who officially received the title of offensive assistant/passing game, will work with coordinator and line coach Steve Loney from the coaches' booth.

Tice has said time and time again that Loney isn't being demoted, but clearly, if things were working on offense, this move wouldn't have been made. The plan, as of Wednesday, was to have Loney call plays from the sidelines, but that could change.

Whatever system the Vikings use, Tice better hope it works. His team will begin a stretch of two consecutive NFC North games - it will play host to Green Bay on Oct. 23 - and three in four games.

By the time that run is completed, the Vikings will know if their early-season struggles were a hiccup or the beginning of one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.

"Our goals when we set out at the beginning of the year were (to) win our division and win the Super Bowl," quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. "Our record is 1-3, but luckily nobody in our division is trailblazing, so it's up in the air and it's right there for the taking. We feel that way and that's how we are approaching this week."

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