The Young Old Man

It seemed the Vikings were about ready to count out Vikings guard David Dixon two years ago. Since then, he has only gotten better, forcing the Vikings to consider him for their future plans. Plus, get news on Darren Bennett, Daunte Culpepper and a player that got away.

Vikings veteran David Dixon's contract is up at the end of the season. Dixon, 35, is in his 11th season in the NFL.

According to line coach Steve Loney, the 6-foot-5, 340-pound guard is having his best season in three years.

Even though he is due to be a free agent this winter, Dixon isn't planning on this season being his last. "I'm hopeful for a couple of more years," he said.

Hearing Dixon talk about playing a couple of more years is a far cry from the 2002 season, when Loney first coached Dixon.

"I don't think either one of us was too shot in the rear with his year two years ago, but I thought he had a good year last year and never saw a decline in what he was doing," Loney said. "In my three years here, he's having the best of his three."

Tice attributes Dixon's enhanced performance to offseason training.

"I really attribute more than any player on the team the mood change in our offseason program with the free weights and the working the core strength, the stomach, and all the muscles, the hips and the flexibility things that we do," Tice said. "You can see it in Dave's play. He's just playing great football."

Dixon, a native of New Zealand, has played in 145 career games as a Viking, the most among current players.

In the offseason the Vikings chose to part ways with youthful Eddie Johnson and go with 10-year veteran Darren Bennett. After nine games this season, Bennett was ranked last in the NFL with a 37.3-yard gross average on punts. Bennett was ranked third-worst with a 33.3-yard net average.

He hopes his second half is much better. "I just have to keep working at it and try to be consistent," Bennett said. "That's what you try for, consistency."

During the first part of free agency the Vikings were considering defensive end Bert Berry, late of the Denver Broncos. While the Vikings focused most intently on Antoine Winfield and Marcus Robinson, Berry eventually signed with Arizona.

He is second in the NFL with nine sacks through nine games.

The local media seems intent on talking about Daunte Culpepper in MVP circles, but as the Colts' Peyton Manning continues his assault on Dan Marino's all-time touchdown record, it seems unlikely that Culpepper would be seriously considered over Manning if the Indianapolis' clip continues.

And for all the talk about passer ratings not being a completely accurate measure of a quarterback's value, well, this time it seems about right. Manning is sitting in Indianapolis with a 122.7 rating, while Culpepper is second in the league with a 115.4. The next best is San Diego's Drew Brees at 108.7.

— Tim Yotter contributed to this report.

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