Childress Remains Confident

The Vikings concluded a week of OTA work following the team's minicamp last weekend and Brad Childress sounded confident that the team is on track to returning to playoff contention. But how close are they and will fan perception be swayed in that direction? It may be time for Chilly and the gang to start winning over fans who were disgruntled from the 2-8 finish to the 2006 season.

The Vikings concluded their latest round of OTAs Friday with Brad Childress asserting that the team has made a lot of progress and is moving ahead in 2007. While that sort of praise sounds good at face value, the question becomes whether such claims are legitimate.

What is a coach really supposed to say when asked an open-ended question? "You know fellas, we really stink. The organization is trying to sabotage the team so interest will drop and we can move to L.A. without any fuss from the fans or the state." Who's going to say that?

There is no reason to believe that the Vikings are worse than they were at the end of the 2006 season – how much worse could 2-8 in their last 10 games be? But they might not be a quantum leap forward either. A team like the 49ers can tell its fans that the team has made huge progress because the Niners were aggressive in free agency and signing their own key players. The Vikings barely made a ripple on the water in free agency and let all of their own veteran free agents that hit the market leave without putting up a fight.

The additions the Vikings have made so far this offseason came primarily on the offensive side of the ball, and most of those came on draft weekend. While they can be helpful, the team had what some estimated as nearly $30 million in salary cap space and didn't use most of it. It can be contended that the team was being prudent this season because of a weak free agent market, but there were several wide receivers that were available for the taking, including Donte Stallworth, Drew Bennett and Darrell Jackson (although it might have been a stretch to think the Seahawks would have made a trade with the Vikings after the Steve Hutchinson poison pill saga).

Childress is convinced that his team can build from within and he might be thinking that they are armed with extra cap room for 2008 because of money saved this year, so the team might make a big run in the open market following the coming season. That's fine if that's the plan, but the Vikings are a team their fans want to love, but are finding it a little more difficult to do so thanks to the lack of a blockbuster free agent move.

If Tarvaris Jackson lives up to his high expectations within the organization and Adrian Peterson becomes the explosive Rookie of the Year candidate many believe he can or should be, the Vikings will be much improved. But if both of those don't happen, Childress' OTA optimism of late spring may not extend in the fall and winter.

* Daunte Culpepper has been given permission to talk to other teams about working out a trade, since he serves as his own agent. But, after seeking assistance from the players association, Pepp has made it clear he would rather be released than help the Dolphins out by trying to work out a trade.
* In a race concept that made little to no sense, Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson won a race against a horse Saturday. Clearly not running against a Kentucky Derby hopeful, but not a sway-back plug either, Ocho Cinco won the bizarre contest as part of a charity benefit.

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