The look was impressive. The numbers were more impressive.
Michael Bennett returned to practice in full pads for the first time this year Wednesday and looked very solid -- enough that he's sticking to his revised game plan of playing vs. the Packers a week from Sunday.
While most of the Twin Cities media dove on this like a hungry dog on a sandwich, there was little confirmation from those who make the final decisions whether Bennett will play. Nov. 9 on the grass at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego makes more sense.
But, Bennett was armed with numbers that beg a serious question. As part of his return to the team, Bennett ran 14 40-yard wind sprints. Both Bennett and Mike Tice acknowledged a 4.29 40 time in that group.
The discussion of Bennett's role actually set a second target date -- Dec. 7 vs. Seattle. We're sure some writer will make a D-Day when that date gets closer, but that is when Bennett is convinced he will resume his full workload as the team's featured back.
* Brian Russell was fined $7,500 by the NFL for his alleged "helmet to helmet hit" -- wording coming from the league office. One would hope that the league would have seen that the hit never touched Shannon Sharpe's helmet, but the head snap resulting from the hit laid Sharpe out. It was a judgment call by the ref in an instant -- head snap means helmet to helmet hit in most circumstances -- but for the league to review the video of the hit and levy a fine bears pondering. Former 49er WIDE RECEIVER (capitals intended) Gene Washington strikes again.
* If nothing else, it's good to know almost knocking a tight end unconscious costs $7,500 and almost knocking an official off-balance costs $50,000.
* Two current Vikings who will face an arduous task to be 2004 Vikings were sidelined Wednesday. LB Raonall Smith is listed as doubtful with a hamstring and WR D'Wayne Bates, who has missed a month with a foot injury, tweaked a hamstring in practice. He will be listed as probable, he may end up a gametime decision and, if he is active, will likely see a limited role.
* Look for Nate Burleson to step out of the shadows Sunday. With Giants CB Will Peterson lost with a back injury, the Giants will likely shift the secondary to Randy Moss' side to try to neutralize him. Translation: Burleson will be single-covered by a nickel back all day and will have his chances to make a big splash.
* For the third straight game, the Vikings are getting the networks' A-team play-by-play crew. For the second time in three games, Troy Aikman, Dick Stockton and Cris Collinsworth will cover the Vikes game for FOX. Last week, the CBS A-Team of Phil Simms and Greg Gumbel called the game. If only the NFL had believed, maybe John Madden could call Randy Moss a "field-tilter" in person.
* VU heard rumor of a website in the making that, in a backwards way, reflects on the Vikings. A football fan, upset with the way members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins celebrate the last undefeated team losing each year, is planning a website that pops champagne corks every time one of the 1972 Dolphins dies. While sure to attract a lot of interest from media outlets looking for a November sweeps story, it does highlight the anomoly of players celebrating the failure of other players. For the record, of the last six parties the Dolphins have hoisted champagne flutes to, five of those teams have moved on to the Super Bowl. The exception? The Vikings in 2000.
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