Camp Begins Without Three

As the Vikings prepare for today's opening of developmental camp, they will do so without three of their key players.

Let the speculation begin about the prognosis on Matt Birk.

The Vikings All-Pro center, who missed significant time after being rushed back too soon from sports hernia surgery, went under the knife Tuesday to have labrum surgery in his hip. VU has been told the recovery time for such a surgery is three to four months, while some on the Vikings staff have indicated the rehab time is two to three months -- figures that could have a wide disparity on the current timetable.

As reported yesterday, if Birk does miss three months, he wouldn't return to action until the conclusion of the preseason and the first hitting he would see would be live action on or near opening day Sept. 11. If the injury takes four months to heal, it would push his return into October. In that event, with the Vikings having their bye week in Week 5, it's unlikely he would see the field until the team returned from its bye.

However, some Vikings staffers think the recovery time from the hip injury is more in the realm of two to three months. If that's the case, Birk could do limited work during the preseason and be good to go by opening day.

But, in light of Birk having three surgeries because he pushed his recovery time too quickly last year, it would make sense for the Vikings to err on the side of caution. With a solid backup in Cory Withrow, the team has the luxury of letting Birk take his time in the rehab process, but, as it stands now, it looks more likely that we won't see Birk on the field until the regular season opener at the earliest ... and perhaps longer.

* Corey Chavous and Brian Williams are expected to once again be no-shows at the Vikings offseason program. Both skipped minicamp last month in contract disputes. Williams, demoted to nickel back with the signing of Fred Smoot, has yet to sign his tendered offer for 2005. Chavous, who has been the subject of rumors that he would be released after June 1 because of his $1.9 million salary, has held out in search of more money -- not a likely scenario.
* Another precinct is heard from. Last weekend, VU reported that Pro Football Weekly picked the Vikings to advance to the NFC Championship Game with a 12-4 record. Well, Sports Illustrated's Peter King is taking it one step further -- the Vikings as the NFC's rep in the Super Bowl. Hopefully, that SI cover jinx stuff no longer applies.

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