Ross Tough To Figure Out

Cornerback Derek Ross is a player that flashes potential often but hasn't found a level of consistency coaches need to have sustained confidence in him. He's got a history of that, but he'll get at least one more shot Sunday. Plus, get a dirty dozen player and coaching notes.

Vikings coach Mike Tice had all but cut backup CB Derek Ross on the plane ride home from Chicago following Sunday's 24-14 loss to the Bears. Tice had convinced himself that Ross was done with the Vikings after a horrendous performance in emergency duty and that practice squad CB Rhett Nelson would be promoted the next day.

But with a night to sleep on it, Tice took a more objective look at the situation and decided Ross is better than Nelson, even after Ross gave up a 31-yard completion on third-and-17 and a 15-yard touchdown pass against the Bears' two-minute offense at the end of the first half.

"I told Derek, ‘You're still the guy, now go out and prove you can play,'" Tice said.

Ross is one of those classic NFL coach-killers. He had seven picks as a senior at Ohio State and was selected by the Cowboys in the third round of the 2002 draft. But he has never lived up to expectations.

He landed in Bill Parcells' doghouse. His knee started acting up. He bounced to Atlanta and was on his way to New Orleans, but the Saints pulled the plug on him when he was late showing up.

The Vikings picked him during the preseason, cut him and then signed him during the season. He blew his first real chance Sunday when Antoine Winfield's high left ankle sprain in the first quarter forced him to play nickel back.

In typical Ross fashion, he wasn't ready to play. The Vikings believe he obviously didn't pay close attention in practice during the week because he didn't think he would be playing.

Now, he knows he will be playing in the nickel. The Vikings believe that will help his play on Sunday.

So, once again, Ross has a chance to prove himself.


  • C Matt Birk is ahead of schedule following hernia surgery and might be able to return next week against Detroit. His return date has been projected as Dec. 24 against the Packers.

  • DT Spencer Johnson, a rookie free agent from Auburn, continues to wow the coaching staff. He had eight tackles and his first NFL sack in only his third NFL start on Sunday at Chicago. "He's the best defensive lineman we have when it comes to getting off blocks," said coach Mike Tice, who has three first-round picks on his defensive line.

  • With 30 touchdown passes and 3,459 yards passing, QB Daunte Culpepper is on pace for 40 touchdown passes and 4,612 yards passing. Both would be team records. Randall Cunningham holds the touchdown record (34 in 1998). Warren Moon set the yardage record of 4,264 in 1994.

  • Deep threat WR Kelly Campbell didn't catch a pass on Sunday. It was the first game this season in which he did not catch at least one pass. He has only four catches in the past five games. Three of them were for 30 yards or longer.

  • K Morten Andersen is 7-for-7 on field goals inside of 30 yards but only 6-for-10 between 30 and 49 yards, including 3-for-5 between 30 and 39 yards. He missed a 36-yarder that would have tied the Bears game in the third quarter.

  • Tice was still a little shook up on Monday because of Sunday's 24-14 upset loss at Chicago. "In a perfect world, we'd be sitting at 8-4 with a one-game lead on Green Bay, picked up a game on Atlanta, who got shut out (Sunday)," Tice said. "Unfortunately, I'm 45 years old and I haven't lived a perfect day yet."

  • QB Daunte Culpepper leads the NFL with a 70.2 completion percentage. He broke his own team record Sunday at Chicago with his 11th game of the season with a 60 percent completion percentage or higher.

  • Some people have criticized Culpepper for the "roll" dance he does after some touchdowns. For those who haven't seen it, his arm movements resemble an official calling illegal motion. Culpepper does it to out of respect for a song one of his friends wrote. It's called "Get Your Roll On." "It's about having fun," Culpepper said. Culpepper said he doesn't do the roll when the Vikings are trailing. "That," he said, "wouldn't be appropriate."

  • WR Randy Moss' 87 touchdowns since 1998 are the second most in the NFL behind Marshall Faulk's 91. Moss' 86 career touchdown receptions rank 10th in NFL history.

  • Tice was asked if he'd accept the Notre Dame job if it were offered to him (it won't be). "No, I like my job here," Tice said. "I love my team, my staff. I don't know why I'd want any other job but this job, frankly, to be honest with you. I'm not shopping for a college job." At an NFL-low $750,000-a-year salary, Tice might be the only NFL head coach who would get a pay increase by accepting the Irish's reported $1-million-a-year offer. Vikings owner Red McCombs won't decide until January whether to pick up the option year on Tice's contract.

  • RB Michael Bennett, who has played only three snaps with no carries over the past two games, had 103 yards rushing on 25 carries, and Kelly Campbell had three catches for 60 yards and a 43-yard TD as the Vikings defeated the Seahawks 34-7 last season. Culpepper completed 21 of 33 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns in that game.

  • Tice was over-the-top positive on Wednesday. "I'm blessed to have my children and wife supporting me, no matter what," Tice said. "My dog licks me in the face when I come home at night, so I don't know why I should be down."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know what the heck I'm supposed to be doing right now. That's all I can say. It's tough because you want to play. But if it doesn't go your way, you have to bite the bullet and hope for something different the next week." — Vikings RB Michael Bennett, a former starter and Pro Bowl player, when asked for his thoughts on playing only three snaps with no carries over the past two games, including one on Sunday against the Bears.

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