Birk Says He'll Be Ready

Vikings center Matt Birk has been sidelined much of the 2004 season -- first in training camp with a hernia and now with an ankle injury. But he has proclaimed himself ready to play next week.

Heading into their bye week, the Vikings had more questions that answers with their injury problems. While there still may be some lingering injuries that will alter the game plan for the Texans, Matt Birk believes any changes won't involve him.

Birk, who left last Sunday's game with an ankle injury was expected to miss 2-3 weeks, but proclaimed himself ready to go as the team resumed practice Thursday.

While the Vikings will remain cautious about how they proceed with Birk's injury, this is viewed as a very good sign, since Birk has a reputation as a quick healer and sounds well on his way to returning to the lineup.

* Onterrio Smith may still be on the Vikings' roster for the Texans game. His appeal isn't scheduled to be heard until next Wednesday. Typically, a team is informed by Monday -- the official end of the NFL work week following Monday Night Football -- if a player won't be available for the following week. Even if Smith loses his appeal, it likely won't take place until after the Texans game.
* The Vikings have a 12-3 record coming out of bye weeks -- the best in the NFL -- and Mike Tice is 2-0 in those situations.
* The Vikings have no interceptions yet this season.

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