Birk's Entire Future In Question

The Vikings and Matt Birk have some big decisions to make over the next few days, as the team decides whether to meet the request of the All-Pro center and give him some security to play hurt in 2005.

Of the problems the Vikings looked to address on offense from 2004, tops among them (aside from the self-imposed change by trading Randy Moss) was to get the blocking up front healthy. To that end, the return of Mike Rosenthal and Jim Kleinsasser were critical, but just as important was getting center Matt Birk back and healthy.

That progress took a hit in June when, after discovering a tear in the labrum of his right hip that required surgery, he was sidelined for two months. Now, after getting a second opinion, Birk has learned he has a partial tear of his left hip labrum and faces another surgery -- either now or later. That's where the rub comes in.

In a league that doesn't guarantee salaries, Birk has assured himself of his $3.7 milion this season by being taken off the physically unable to perform list, but, the final three years of his contract are not guaranteed and, if there is a chronic problem found and the Vikings were to release him, they wouldn't be liable to pay any of that money. Birk and his agent don't like those odds.

To that end, Birk and his representative, Joe Linta, have offered to play as long as Birk can hold out and play through the pain in exchange for having his $4 million 2006 salary guaranteed. If the Vikings don't go along with it, he will likely opt for left labrum surgery, which would put him out until at least mid- to late-November.

The Vikings are expected to make a decision sometime this week. If they don't put Birk on the injured reserve list -- which would wipe out his 2005 season -- they would have to carry him on the active roster until he returns or they deem he can't make it back and put him on injured reserve at a future date.

* Mike Tice said the kicking battle between Aaron Elling and Paul Edinger continues to be a virtual dead heat and may not be decided until the team plays at Seattle in the preseason finale Sept. 2.
* In another position battle, after getting burned for two TD passes last week, Brian Williams is facing a challenge from Ralph Brown for the nickel position on passing downs.
* Tickets for the Vikings annual Kickoff Gala are now on sale. The event will be held the evening of Sept. 8 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. This year's event will include a salute to 45 years of Vikings history with many alumni players on hand, joining head coach Mike Tice as he introduces the 2005 team to the community. A current or alumni Vikings player, coach or cheerleader will be at each table. Admission is $100 per ticket and are available through the Vikings ticket office at 612-33-VIKES.

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