Production Before Player's Pride

The Vikings have placed winning and productive players before the pride of those who hadn't been producing when they deactivated Chris Hovan Sunday.

All it took was one look at former No. 1 draft pick Chris Hovan standing on the sideline in a hooded sweatshirt along with the team's other inactive players to realize coach Mike Tice is no longer worried about hurt feelings as he scrambles to find playmakers who can help the Vikings' defense become a playoff-caliber unit.

Earlier this season, Tice allowed Hovan to keep his streak of consecutive starts alive. Hovan started and then retreated to a secondary role behind veteran Steve Martin.

Two games ago, Hovan's streak of 69 consecutive starts was snapped as the Vikings turned to rookie free agent Spencer Johnson as the starter. Johnson played well enough in a 22-19 victory over the Lions to warrant another start.

Sunday, Hovan fell completely out of the team's plan of attack against Jacksonville RB Fred Taylor. The Vikings decided to activate seven defensive linemen and told Hovan at the team hotel on Saturday night that he wasn't one of them.

Hovan, who had played in 74 games since being drafted out of Boston College in 2000, didn't take the news well. He was gone before reporters reached the locker room after Sunday's 27-16 victory over the Jaguars.

"I'm trying to find the right mix of players," Tice explained. "I'm trying to find guys who can make plays, frankly."

Hovan has 21 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks but has been criticized by coaches for undisciplined play and a general lack of production this season.

Hovan is a free agent at the end of the season. He reportedly has put his house on the market because he knows he won't be with the Vikings beyond this season.

The Vikings obviously have moved on. The key play in Sunday's victory was made by the team's last two No. 1 picks, both defensive linemen. DE Kenechi Udeze's sack and forced fumbled led to DT Kevin Williams' 77-yard fumble return for the game-clinching touchdown with 1:59 left in the game.

Tice said it's too early to say whether Hovan will be inactive against the Bears on Sunday.

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