Birk Likely To Go On I.R.

With the Vikings opting out of Matt Birk's offer to play with a guarantee of 2006 money, it now appears as though his entire 2005 season will be done -- whether he heals quickly or not.

When the Vikings took Matt Birk off the physically unable to perform list earlier this month, it guaranteed him his 2005 base salary of more than $3 million. It also meant that, if he was sidelined, the Vikings would have to keep a roster spot open for him until his return -- expected at the earliest to be mid-November.

That took a dramatic turn Thursday as the Vikings declined Birk's offer to play as long as he could tolerate the pain in exchange for a guarantee on his 2006 salary. In what can best be described as a calculated business decision, the Vikings opted out of the offer.

This isn't to say that there is animosity between the sides or that Birk won't be back with the Vikings in 2006, but, because of the nature of surgeries, the Vikings felt it was wisest to keep all their options open and, in Birk's case, it was going to be a double-edged sword for the 2005 Vikings.

Birk is planning to have the hip surgery sometime in early September and, by the time the Vikings make their final roster cuts, he will likely be placed on injured reserve. Earlier this month, coach Mike Tice spoke of his concern about having kept two kickers on the roster, saying the team needed every available roster spot. The same can be said for the Birk situation. As long as he was on the shelf but not on injured reserve, the Vikings were going to have to keep a spot open for him -- which would effectively be the same as keeping two kickers, which Tice said he wouldn't do.

So expect to see Birk placed on the I.R. in the next week or two and be lost for the entire 2005 season. When jobs are at stake, sometimes the waiting game is too difficult a process.

* The Vikes will unveil their new-look offensive line tonight with Chris Liwienski moving to left guard and rookie Marcus Johnson moving in at right guard.
* With all the focus on Birk, the Vikings defense has been all but ignored this week, but it will have a huge matchup tonight in proving that the run defense has been improved. The task will be to contain LaDainian Tomlinson. To the extent the Vikings can do that will go a long way to build up -- or destroy -- fan confidence in the new-look defense ... if Tomlinson plays.
* The starters for the Vikings are expected to play the entire first half and possibly the first series of the second half.
* It was in a similar situation -- the first drive after halftime -- of the third preseason game of 2004 that both Birk and Michael Bennett were injured and spent time on the shelf.

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