Sunday, the Vikings enter an important four-game stretch that includes all three NFC North teams. If head coach Mike Tice wants his job back next year, this is the time to turn around the Minnesota's "crappy" 1-3 start.
The Vikings returned from their bye week Monday to begin preparations for Sunday's game against Chicago at Soldier Field.
Despite one of the NFL's most disappointing starts, the Vikings (1-3) remain in the thick of the NFC North race and are tied with the Bears for second place. Detroit, the division leader, only has a one-game edge at 2-2.
Sunday's game will be the Vikings' third on the road this season. So far, they are 0-2 and have been outscored 67-18 away from the Metrodome.
It's that type of lack of success that caused coach Mike Tice to bring in Jerry Rhome (offense) and Foge Fazio (defense) during the bye week to help evaluate what is wrong. Rhome will have a big role in establishing the game plan beginning this week and will have a big hand in helping call plays.
Steve Loney, the Vikings' offensive coordinator and line coach, will return to the field after spending two weeks in the coaches' box. That will enable Loney to work with the line, while also having a role in the how the offensive functions.
Tice has been assured by new owner Zygi Wilf that he's the coach for the remainder of this season, but it's clear a change will be made unless the Vikings turn things around.
"We're off to a crappy start and when you're off to a crappy start the criticism first and foremost has to fall to the guy leading and that's me," he said. "I have to do a better job and it's my job to get everyone else to do a better job.
"Is there any comfort? No, there's no comfort when you're 1-3 and you look like crap on the road... I have no comfort right now. My comfort is knowing that I'm lucky to have this job and I love coming to work every day."
WR Nate Burleson, who has missed the past two games because of a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, also is bothered by an injury to his right shoulder, according to coach Mike Tice. "The shoulder is holding him back now, not the knee," Tice said. It's unclear if Burleson will be able to play Sunday at Chicago; he did not practice Monday. Burleson claims the shoulder won't be a problem.
Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said he is fine with Foge Fazio being brought in as a consultant to evaluate the Vikings' defense. "It's another set of eyes," Cottrell said. "He'll come in and look at us and give us his unbiased opinion... See what we're doing, if (opponents) might get some tips on us. Things like that are very helpful. If you have an opportunity to have that done during the season, it's a pretty good thing to do."
QB Daunte Culpepper sat out much of Monday's practice to rest his sore knee. Culpepper said he plans to practice Wednesday. "It's getting better," he said.
FS Darren Sharper took part in much of Monday's practice and is expected to play Sunday at Chicago after missing two games because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
DE Spencer Johnson sat out practice Monday and could miss Sunday's game in Chicago because of a medial collateral sprain in his right knee. With starting left end Kenechi Udeze (knee) out for the season, Johnson might have gotten his second consecutive start if he was healthy.
DE Lance Johnstone returned to practice Monday and is expected to be able to play against the Bears. Johnstone, who suffered a partially torn right pectoral muscle against New Orleans in Week 3 and missed the Vikings' loss at Atlanta the following Sunday, could end up seeing extensive time with Kenechi Udeze out for the season and Spencer Johnson also hurting.
As expected, OL Adam Goldberg was working with the first team at right guard in Monday's practice. He's expected to replace rookie Marcus Johnson as the starter, although both should see playing time Sunday.
DE Matt Mitrione was on the practice field Monday after signing with the Vikings on Friday. Mitrione, one of the Vikings' final cuts in training camp, was signed to help add depth to the injury-plagued unit. He takes the roster spot of Kenechi Udeze, who was placed on injured reserve.
CB Brian Williams remains out of practice because of a sprained left knee he suffered in Week 3. Williams' chances of playing Sunday appear remote at best.
RB Moe Williams sat out most of Monday's practice and will test his sore knee on Wednesday or Thursday.