The Road Worriers

The Vikings fly out to Cincinnati today, hoping to end the road woes that have plagued the team since 2001.

The Vikings aren't in a must-win situation when they face the Bengals Sunday, but they're closer to panic mode than comfort zone. In their last 30 road games, the Vikings are a putrid 7-23. Take away the road games played inside domes, where the Vikings are an impressive 4-2, the team is 3-21 in outdoor stadiums -- the worst winning percentage in the NFL during that span.

The implication of the game is huge, since less than 10 percent of teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs. The first two games are ones that fans and team personnel alike probably checked off as wins to start the season -- there's no doubting that the Bucs game was viewed as a win.

Until the Vikings can turn around their awful outdoor record, they will continue to be road underdogs -- and rightfully so.

SATURDAY NOTES
* VU contacted the NFL office this week to get a ruling on a play Sunday that brought up some questions. On the second touchdown by Jermaine Wiggins that was called back, the Vikings had the proverbial "free play" when a Bucs defender jumped offside. On the same play, Nate Burleson was called for an illegal block in the back inside the 10-yard line. The free play turned into no play because of offsetting penalties. But VU had a question concerning the type of penalty that was called on the Vikings. Unlike an illegal formation penalty and the like that are marked off from the line of scrimmage, illegal blocking and holding penalties downfield are marked off from the spot in which they occurred. Which posed the question: Could the Vikings have declined the penalty against the Bucs and allowed them to accept the penalty on Burleson, which would have put the ball about 10 yards further upfield? The NFL officials had to confer before giving an answer, but in the end, they said the play falls under the scope of "double fouls" -- which can't be declined. Oh well. At least we tried.
* OT Bryant McKinnie took part in all of Friday's practice after being upgraded to probable and is expected to start Sunday.
* Sam Cowart hasn't been completely ruled out for Sunday's game, but he didn't practice for a third straight game with a calf injury. If he can't go, he will be replaced by youngster Rod Davis.
* The team has yet to decide whether Koren Robinson will be activated for Sunday or not. If he is, he will likely be asked to return kicks.
* Rookie Erasmus James is expected to be activated for Sunday's game after sitting out last week's games after getting a virus that gave him migraine headaches.
* The Vikings are going to wear their home purple uniforms Sunday because the temperatures are expected to be in the low to mid-80s and the Bengals have the option of what color uniform to wear. Since dark colors attract heat, the Bengals are going to force the Vikings to wear their dark uniforms -- a ploy used often by teams like the Cowboys, Cardinals and Dolphins.
* Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly was fined $5,000 for a hit out of bounds on the Vikings' Travis Taylor last Sunday.

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