How Much Change is Good?

The word VU has heard consistently over the last two months is chemistry. What is coming into question now is how many ingredients are needed to form chemistry?

Go to a bookstore or a large supermarket and hit the magazine rack. One fact becomes painfully clear -- on the national level, most football writers think the Vikings are going to suck.

While teams like the Jets and Cowboys -- a pair of teams that had as many holes as the Vikings last year and, on face value, did less to replace them -- are being picked by some to be the sleeper playoff team, it seems nobody is on the Vikings bandwagon.

The reason cited most is chemistry -- the same point Mike Tice and his players are saying is the strong suit of the new-look Vikings. Daunte Culpepper told VU the enthusiasm with the Vikes is the best its been since he joined the team and several players with longer tenures are saying the same.

But, those with longer tenures are being harder to find all the time. At last check by VU and a question that was verified by Vikings insiders at Winter Park, more than half of the Vikings 53-man roster this year may consist of players who weren't on the roster in 2001.

It's no surprise then that so many analysts see this as a rebuilding year for the Vikes and smell a 6-10 season. Granted, the same was said in 1998. While we're not saying the Vikings will go 15-1 -- that would be absurd -- many close to the team think 8-8 is a worst-case scenario. A couple of breaks here and there and a 10-6 season is possible.

The only down side to the current enthusiasm is that, with so many new players thrown together, there is no way of knowing how the team will handle adversity. A year ago, the Vikings tanked more than once and, with so many new players and current players asked to take on leadership roles, there are many unanswered questions.

So understand that the Vikings are being viewed as a second-class team. No Monday night games for the first time in 17 years is a clear indication of that. But, it's building a mean streak in this team that, even if 2002 isn't a banner year, will be the groundwork for the Tice era to make its mark on Minnesota football. If nothing else, this will be a season that will mark a clear change in the history of the organization and, despite what some at the national level are saying, it will be a change for the better.

SATURDAY NOTES
* God love Fanball. The Twin Cities-based publication came out with its preseason magazine this week for fantasy football players and, in the mag's mock draft, Randy Moss went fifth overall and Daunte Culpepper was the third QB off the board. Homers yes, but, with everyone else badmouthing the Vikes, it's nice to see somebody willing to back up the Vikes stars with their names attached to it.
* The Vikes have said they have no interest in DT Sam Adams, although he would be a glove fit at nose tackle -- a spot of huge need for the Vikes. The Vikings aren't alone, however. Adams, who made outrageous demands like an $8 million signing bonus, has lowered his numbers, but remains beligerant about getting big jing. To the point that VU has been told he will consider sitting out if his main suitors -- Denver and Oakland -- don't pony up the big money and wait until 2003 to try to cash in. Bad advice, Sam. Take a one-year deal, swallow your misplaced pride and earn a huge multi-year deal. Prove it and they will come.

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