Safeties Will Be Key Players

The Vikings lost a key cog when Corey Chavous was ruled out after suffering a broken bone in his elbow. Now recently re-signed defensive back Rushen Jones may be forced into action against Brett Favre. Plus, get a dozen other notes on the Vikings as they prepare for their first playoff game in three years.

Because the Vikings have only two healthy safeties on the roster, CB Rushen Jones has been moved into a backup role for both FS Brian Russell and SS Willie Offord. Offord was the backup, but he will start because SS Corey Chavous is out because of a fractured left elbow.

Jones has played in only five games this season. He played in the first four games and was injured. He reached an injury settlement and was released in mid-October. He wasn't eligible to be re-signed until mid-December. The Vikings re-signed him before the Dec. 24 Green Bay game. He played in that game but was inactive at Washington last week.

Now, with the playoffs at hand, he is one play from being the last line of defense against Brett Favre and the Packers.

  • DB Brandon Pinderhughes was signed to the practice squad. OL Shannon Snell was released from the practice squad but might be re-signed after the season.

  • P Darren Bennett averaged 40 yards or more in only seven games this season. He didn't punt in the win at New Orleans on Oct. 17.

  • LB Mike Nattiel has fallen completely out of favor with the coaching staff. Nattiel began the season battling with rookie Dontarrious Thomas for the starting weak-side job. Then he was competing for a spot in the nickel. Now, because of too many mental mistakes, Nattiel is strictly a special teams player. He might not even make the team next season.

  • DT Chris Hovan, who has fallen from near Pro Bowl starter two years ago to forgotten bit player who has been inactive in three of the last six games, has two tackles in the last three games he has played. Spencer Johnson, the rookie free agent who stole Hovan's job, has 20 tackles in the past three games.

  • DT Kevin Williams had a season-high four quarterback hurries in the Dec. 24 loss to the Packers at the Metrodome. Williams and DE Kenechi Udeze are tied for the team lead in quarterback hurries with 20.

  • It's one of the oldest cliches in sports, but the governors of Wisconsin and Minnesota have made a friendly wager on Sunday's Packers-Vikings wild-card playoff game. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty anted up a walleye Wellington dinner at a Twin Cities restaurant. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle offered up some Usinger sausages and Carr Valley cheese. Pawlenty told reporters about it.

  • The Vikings are 2-20 in their last 22 outdoor road games dating to October 2000. Both victories came with the game-time temperature above 70 degrees. One of them was a 30-25 victory at Lambeau Field in last year's season opener.

  • Coach Mike Tice has been careful not to gloat too much about making the playoffs. After all, the Vikings are 8-8 and have lost four of their last five games and seven of their last 10. Tice opened his Monday press conference by saying, "Well, it's hard to find any joy in Mudville."

  • In 13 games against the Packers, WR Randy Moss has 66 receptions for 1,243 yards (18.8) and 12 touchdowns. Moss was held to two catches for 30 yards and a touchdown in the 34-31 loss to the Packers at the Metrodome on Christmas Eve.

  • Unlike most coaches, Mike Tice basically blurts out whatever is on his mind. Of the 21-18 loss to Washington last week, Tice said, "I thought it was going to be a blowout. I must be nuts."

  • In nine games against the Packers, QB Daunte Culpepper has completed 165 of 284 passes (58.1) for 2,193 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 97.1 passer rating.

  • Coach Mike Tice compared his sideline antics today to when he was an offensive line coach. "I was fiery and I yelled a lot and I cursed even more," Tice said. "But, honestly, as a head coach, I don't think you can rant and rave up and down the sideline. All you do is cause your players anxiety." Uh, Mike, have you seen the replays two weeks ago of your reaction to the officials stopping the clock for a measurement with less than 10 seconds left in the half, the Packers out of timeouts and within field goal range?

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Many coaches have gone to their graves trying to figure that out, and I think I'll be the next one." — Coach Mike Tice, talking about the difficulty of making his team play with confidence.

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