Bennett, Birk to Miss Opener?

The injury problems that have plagued Matt Birk and Michael Bennett took another strange turn Tuesday, as coach Mike Tice seemed to write off both of them for the regular-season opener.

It was almost a year ago that Michael Bennett and Matt Birk were hurt on the same play in the third preseason game. The result was that Bennett would miss almost two months and Birk, who was pushed back into service too quickly, was in and out of surgery three times during the year.

Deja vu seemed to permeate Winter Park as the team conducted its final two-a-day practice of training camp. Coach Mike Tice said that not only would Bennett and Birk not play in Friday's game, but all but ruled both of them out for the regular season opener as well.

Tice said that Bennett, who has been diagnosed with what is being termed an annular tear of a ligament around a disc in his neck, will need time to heal the injury. For Bennett, it's just the latest in a long list of injuries that have cut almost every season he's played short -- in the last two years, Bennett has played 16 games and missed 16 games.

For Birk, the prognosis may even be worse. He has missed most of training camp recovering from labrum surgery to repair a problem in his hip that many feel is the result of overcompensation after returning too fast from hernia surgery. The team is again talking about surgery as a potential solution, but, it could put him out for three more months.

Neither player would speculate about his prognosis Tuesday, but this situation has all the looks of what happened to the team last year -- which wasn't how the Vikings wanted to begin another season.

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