Birk Playing Through Pain

At a time when injuries have killed the Vikings, Matt Birk remains a tough guy who won't stay on the sidelines.

Matt Birk has always been a tough guy on the field. If that was ever questioned, this season Birk has put any debate to rest.

Birk, who was sidelined earlier this year with a sports hernia injury, promised to be back on time for the start of the regular season. After being sidelined again, he returned to action when backup Cory Withrow was injured and was on the field for a critical overtime touchdown that defeated the Texans earlier this year.

Birk continues to play through what is being described as agonizing pain. He is likely going to need surgery to repair the tweaking of his hernia injury after the season, but until then he plans to gut it out.

In an era when not all players are willing to play hurt, Birk has been an example for others to follow.

* Jose Cortez has one game to make a dramatic improvement or the Vikings will replace him as early as Monday.
* Bud Grant spoke to the team Thursday -- just the third time since taking over as coach that Mike Tice had someone address the team.
* The Vikings have won the last four games vs. the Lions and eight of the last nine.
* The Vikings will be collecting foodshelf donations from 9 a.m. to kickoff prior to Sunday's game.

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