Birk Out 3-4 Weeks

With Mike Tice standing by his guarantee from team medical staff that he will be ready for opening day of the regular season, center Matt Birk underwent surgery Wednesday to repair is what is being termed a sports hernia.

The Vikes finally got an answer to the haunting question that has bothered them since last weekend – what's wrong with Matt Birk?

They got the answer Wednesday after Birk had exploratory arthroscopic surgery. The cause of his pain at the joint connecting his left and right pelvis was a sports hernia – likely caused by the twisting and turning under violent conditions that NFL centers must endure.

The prognosis is that Birk will be sidelined for three to four weeks. He's hoping to be back for the third preseason game, but VU is being told he will likely play only in the preseason finale and then it will likely be just a cameo appearance that he, Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss will likely be asked to do for precaution's sake.

* NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is scheduled to be on hand for the Vikings practice with the Chiefs on Friday.
* Birk Backup Plan Part I – the Vikes are expected to formally announce the signing of free agent center Billy Conaty today.
* Birk Backup Plan Part II – at Wednesday's practice, the Vikes moved rookie guard Anthony Herrara to center to get some work at the position.
* Dontarrious Thomas has looked very good since signing his contract and, with Mike Nattiel sidelined with an ankle injury, Thomas has worked his way into the lead in the battle for a starting job. After lauding Nattiel over the weekend, Mike Tice said Wednesday about Nattiel's chances to reclaim the No. 1 spot – "It will be hard for him to move ahead."
* Jermaine Wiggins isn't short on confidence. Having played in two of the last three Super Bowls – both of which he played well in – he said Wednesday that he could be in the same category as Tony Gonzalez and Todd Heap if the offense wants him to fill that role. If nothing else, you have to like his belief in his ability.
* Rookie linebacker Grant Wiley suffered a separated right shoulder and is likely to be placed on injured reserve today.

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