Will Youth Movement Succeed?

The Vikings' decision to go with a youth movement on defense is going to be critical to their stretch run, as coach Mike Tice is unofficially making a changing of the guard during the season instead of waiting until 2004.

When the 2003 season began, the Vikings were convinced that their veterans on defense would be the guys that would bring them to the playoff dance. But, with a month to go, the dance card has changed and the youth movement many expected to be installed after the season is being put into action now.

Nationally, there have been some questions about whether this is an act of desperation or if the Vikings are trying to make adjustments on the fly to make up for deficiencies on defense. Few teams make as many changes at one time than the Vikings are making now.

For his part, Greg Biekert is willing to accept a time share with rookie E.J. Henderson -- mindful that he is nearing the end of his 11-year career while Henderson is the future at the position. The transition has already begun and, by Sunday's game, Henderson will be given every opportunity to win the job outright for the final three games.

On the outside, Henri Crockett isn't as willing to give up playing time to youngster Nick Rogers. Crockett, who has accepted his demotion, said Wednesday he will keep doing his best and play when called upon.

Up front, Fred Robbins, a free agent after this year, has also accepted his time split with rookie Kevin Williams. Williams, a starting defensive end, will move to nose tackle in a time split with Robbins on rushing downs.

Will these changes make a difference? To be honest, things couldn't get much worse defensively than what we've seen the last month.

THURSDAY NOTES
* For being this late in the season, the Vikings come into Sunday's game pretty healthy. On the team's injury report, only LB Chris Claiborne (Achilles, questionable) is listed -- and he's expected to play.
* The Seahawks, by and large, are also injury-free. Only guard Jerry Wunsch (ankle, doubtful) isn't expected to play. Two other players -- DE Brandon Mitchell (calf) and FB Mack Strong (ankle) -- are listed as questionable. Other than that, the team just has minor bumps and bruises that won't keep them out of the game, including RB Shaun Alexander (ankle) and LBs Chad Brown (foot), Randall Godfrey (chest) and Anthony Simmons (chin).
* Raonall Smith, who has been inactive eight of the last nine games, will be activated Sunday.

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