Howard All But Finished with Vikes

In the NFL, injuries take a toll and end careers -- some prematurely. As the Vikings look ahead to to 2003, VU has been told it will be without DT Willie Howard.

It's been more than 18 months since the agonizing sight on the Metrodome floor -- DT Willie Howard getting rolled up and letting out an agonizing yell heard by both benches and fans alike. The result? A torn ACL and MCL as well as a broken fibula. The injury took away one of Howard's strengths -- speed off the snap. But it was hoped that with time and rehab it would come back.

Eighteen months later, it still hasn't. Howard missed all of the 2002 season, as the Vikes were willing to buy him another year. Howard worked hard to regain his former form, but, as the Vikings continue to work through their second of three developmental camps this week, VU has been told that Howard likely won't be part of the team's future.

From what we've been told, Howard and coach Mike Tice have talked about the situation and Howard will likely be released later this month. It's a sad end to a career that had a lot of promise, but a sign of how quickly NFL careers can end.

* VU has been told that the Vikings have been impressed enough with the rapport between QB Shaun Hill and WR Matthew Hatchette in NFL Europe that the Vikings will likely sign Hatch to come back to the team once the NFLE season ends.
* VU has been told the Bears will announce today that LB Brian Urlacher has signed a contract extension similar to the seven-year, $50 million (with a $19 million signing bonus) contract signed last year by the Ravens Ray Lewis.
* As reported last weekend, the Broncos finalized a one-year deal to sign safety Lee Flowers, a player the Vikings had shown an interest in signing.
* The Vikings currently have 84 players on their roster. They must get down to 80 by the start of training camp.

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