Vikes Roll Out Red Carpet

Vikings coach Mike Tice is extending the welcome wagon today for several players, in hopes of finding a couple of replacement parts for 2002.

The Vikings have been well-chronicled about their off-season losses, with Robert Griffith, Kailee Wong, Cris Carter, Dale Carter, Jake Reed and Ed McDaniel all leaving the organization. Now, it's time to continue the process of replacing those players.

The Vikings are going to be busy today, entertaining a foursome of wide receivers -- Willie Jackson (Saints), Tony Simmons (Colts), D'Wayne Bates (Bears) and Donald Driver (Packer).

While it had been previously reported in some media outlets that the Vikings weren't interested in going after any restricted free agents, Driver and Bates are the exception to that alleged rule. Driver would only cost the Vikings a seventh-round draft pick if Green Bay refuses to match any Vikings offer and, due to a bonehead mistake by the brass in Chicago, Bates wouldn't require any compensation -- thanks to a front-office clerical error.

In addition to these wide receivers, Indy's Jerome Pathon is scheduled to make a visit to Winter Park next week.

The Vikings are also looking at cornerbacks to come in and a couple are due today -- Fred Vinson, who last played with Seattle (he was part of the Ahman Green trade to the Packers) and Corey Chavous of Arizona, who is receiving considerable interest leaguewide.

With the ability to sign two or three more free agents now and possibly another two or three after June 1, the Vikings are confident that, without overspending, they can have themselves in much better position heading into the 2002 season.

* Any interest in TE Ken Dilger is all but dead, since the signing of Byron Chamberlain has depleted money available for tight ends and, as the Vikings quickly found out, teams like Detroit have backed off Dilger's contract demands to be a starter, much less a situational receiver.
* DE Lance Johnstone has contacted the Vikings about returning as a designated pass rush specialist. When signed last summer, Johnstone was projected as an every-down DE, but didn't live up to that expectation and was allowed to go unsigned into free agency.
* Rams coach Mike Martz took another shot at Cris Carter in the St. Louis newspaper today, outlining how Carter had contacted him several times about coming to the Rams and saying money wasn't a consideration, only to blow off the Rams by saying he was negotiating a deal with Cleveland. In the story, Martz reiterated that he and the Rams have no interest in signing Carter.
* Former Vikings RB Terry Allen isn't going into retirement quietly. He has informed his agent to let NFL teams know that he wants to return in 2002 for another season.
* Dr. Casey Windler, an orthopedic specialist for the University of Texas, has sent a letter to all 32 NFL teams saying that there is no damage to the right knee of OT Mike Williams. A couple of teams wanted Williams to undergo extensive tests after being convinced that he had a partially torn ACL at the Combine. Many believe the Vikings will draft Williams if he is available at the No. 7 pick in the draft.
* VU has been in contact with the NFL league office concerning the 2002 schedule, which could be released as soon as early next week. We're tracking down some information on the Vikings schedule, but did get this much today -- with the NFL back to an even number of teams, the league will scrap its every-week bye week schedule. Now the league will return to a regular format of having all four teams in the same division off the same week, running from Week 3 to Week 10. It is unclear if the league will abandon its former policy of allowing teams coming off a bye week to play teams that aren't. VU is being told that schedule logistics may not allow it, but the league is looking at a formula to have the returning bye week teams play each other in divisional games following their scheduled byes, to avoid problems of recent years -- where big games with playoff ramifications have pitted one rested team against one team without the benefit of an extra week of preparation.

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