Birk In As Pro Bowl Starter

Thanks to an injury that will force Bears center Olin Kreutz to miss the Pro Bowl, Matt Birk becomes the third Vikings starter on the NFC roster.

There's a good reason why the NFL puts as little stock in its all-star game as any professional sports league -- injuries.

Right and left, starters are dropping out of the game. Two of the starting wide receivers -- Randy Moss and Terrell Owens -- have already bowed out, as well as several other position players unwilling to risk further injuries to play in Hawaii.

The latest to say "thanks, but no thanks" is Bears center Olin Kreutz. That opens the door for Vikings Matt Birk to be the NFC starter at center.

That now makes all three Vikings on the roster -- Birk, Daunte Culpepper and Corey Chavous -- starters for the NFC.

While the game is historically and anti-climax after the Super Bowl, at least Vikings fans will have a reason to tune in...for the first half anyway.

* This week the Hall of Fame Class of 2004 will be announced. While it is certain that Barry Sanders and John Elway will be inducted, hope remains that either Carl Eller or Jim Marshall will be one of this year's inductees.
* The Vikings re-signed TE Ben Steele, who was released from the team last summer. His signing could be yet another signal that Jim Kleinsasser may not be back with the team. The Vikings have signed three tight ends of the last two months in the event he doesn't return.
* WR Ben Nelson and CB Jermaine Mays have been allocated to NFL Europe.
* Vikings strength and conditioning coach Daryl Lawrence was scheduled to meet with Mike Tice this week about moving up the coaching depth chart to fill the vacancy on the Vikings staff created when Steve Wetzel joined Denny Green with the Cardinals. Instead, Lawrence accepted the position as assistant stength and conditioning coach with Arizona, keeping his loyalty with Wetzel and Green.

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