Birk Doing ‘Freaking Great'

On Sunday night, it didn't look like Pro Bowler center Matt Birk would be playing Oct. 10 against Houston. He begs to differ, and has a sense of humor about the situation.

If Vikings Pro Bowl center Matt Birk gets his way, the number of consecutive starts at center will extend from 67 to 68 on Oct. 10, when the Vikings play their next game, in Week 5 at Houston.

Birk suffered a high ankle sprain on his left leg Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Initially, the injury appeared to be more serious. A Vikings official told VU late Sunday night that Birk was doubtful for the Oct. 10 game.

But just days after that initial speculation, Birk offered a rebuttal. "I'll be playing next week," Birk said Thursday. "I'll be in there."

Birk underwent a magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) test earlier in the week. The MRI revealed a mild sprain, which led Birk to being listed as questionable for next weekend's game. Birk, who earlier in the week had his left foot protected by a walking boot, was optimistic Thursday.

When initially asked about his ankle he said it was, "freaking great. Print that. Freaking great."

"It's not as bad as they thought at first," Birk said. "We have off days so I'm just going to rehab. So far I'm happy with the progress and every day it seems to get a little bit better.

"I've had high-ankle sprains before and there's different levels of severity. I've definitely had worse than this so I'm hopeful that it keeps feeling better, that I respond to treatment and that I'll be ready next week."

Of course, the bye week will only help Birk's rehabilitation. While most teams will be playing games Sunday, Birk will have his feet up with remote control in hand.

"I like to lay around the house, especially since I have this injury," he said. "I can milk it with my wife, too."

The bye week also offers another bonus for Birk.

"I can be the dad I always wanted to be and be there all the time," said Birk, who with wife, Adrianna, have a daughter, Madison.

Cory Withrow would start in Birk's place Oct. 10 against the Texans if Birk wasn't ready to go. That scenario would mean the Vikings would be missing their three-time Pro Bowler, but coaches wouldn't hit the panic button.

Since 2000, Withrow has played in 52 games for the Vikings. But he has started just one game — Dec. 2, 2001 against Pittsburgh, when he started at right guard for David Dixon. He has never started a game at center for the Vikings.

But starting in place of Birk can't be considered foreign concept for Withrow, either. In August, Withrow spent most of training camp listed as the team's starting center while Birk rehabilitated from a sports hernia surgery.

Birk's preseason injury allowed Withrow time to prove his mettle.

"Until that happens there is a certain amount of speculation. Until the person is under the gun with pressure to perform at that high level, it is speculation," offensive line coach Steve Loney said. "Now I don't think anybody has to speculate at all."

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