Matt Birk will serve as an honorary captain for the final game in the Metrodome Sunday.
The Vikings will honor former Pro Bowl center Matt Birk
prior to the final game at the Metrodome Sunday. Birk will be an honorary captain when the Vikings and Lions go out for the coin toss in the last game at the Dome.
Birk, a St. Paul native selected in the sixth round of the 1998 draft, spent 11 seasons with the Vikings, being named to the Pro Bowl six times as well as being named to the All-Metrodome team, the 50 Greatest Vikings squad selected in 2011 and the winner of the 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
Birk left Minnesota in 2009, spending his final four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens
and capping his career last season by winning a Super Bowl championship.
It seems a fitting end that a hometown Viking who wears a championship ring will be on hand as the Vikings say goodbye to the Metrodome. The work Birk did in the community and with children's charities set the standard for future Vikings to follow. As good a player as he was, he is a better humanitarian. It's only a matter of time before he takes his rightful place in the Vikings Ring of Honor, but he may have to settle for being one of the first members in the ring of the new Vikings stadium.
If Green Bay wins Sunday (and they went from a four-point dog to a three-point road favorite in the span of four minutes of the announcement Aaron Rodgers will start), the NFC North champion will have a record of 8-7-1 – cause for pause for the opponents in one of the two NFC divisional games (eight in all) Sunday that have no playoff implications. Oh, what could have been.
The NFL has a long way to go in creating competitive balance with the bye weeks. Despite a symmetrical schedule that would allow for entire divisions to have the same bye week and play each other coming out of it, that hasn't happened. But the heirs to the late Val Pinchbeck schedule-making legacy have opted to do one thing right. If you check your schedule of games this week, all of them are divisional matchups, cashing in on the available divisions at stake – in this case, the NFC East and North.
There will be a small throng of fans in the Metrodome for the final game hoping the Vikings win, but that a certain Lion makes a hometown splash. This week the Lions placed not one, but two tight ends on injured reserve – Brandon Pettigrew and Dorin Dickerson. Elevated to the active roster was Becker native Matt Veldman. One can only imagine a significant portion of his first full NFL paycheck is getting kicked back on Lions-section tickets.
A sign of the times for a game sans playoff implications: not including the two tight ends put on I.R. Thursday, 24 players on the Vikings and Lions rosters either didn't practice or were limited.
It will be interesting to see whether there is a repeat of the vandalism of the Metrodome that there was at Met Stadium on its final day. The historical record is fuzzy on when exactly the term "zero tolerance" was accepted as fact.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.