Vikings Focus on Staying Together, Positive

Some current Vikings are drawing on their experiences from early-season losing streaks with former teams, while others are just continuing to prepare for that next opponent. Whatever the approach to overcoming a 2-5 record to start the season, a number of Vikings players expressed confidence that the locker room will remain a positive atmosphere.

Fans, media and others outside the Vikings locker room may be starting to write them off, but the players insist they can still turn the season around after a 2-5 start.

"Things can turn around quick. The Giants started out 0-2 and now they're 6-2 and that can happen here," said linebacker Chad Greenway.

The difference is that 0-2 leaves 14 games to turn the season around. The Vikings have only nine games remaining and might have to go 7-2 in those games to stand a chance at making the playoffs – even in the NFC, which this year is considered the inferior conference to the AFC, which has two 7-0 teams preparing to play each other on Sunday.

Greenway is usually an upbeat player who looks to veterans to lead the way, and he found one such mentor in fellow linebacker Ben Leber. Greenway has mentioned Leber as a teacher for on-the-field help with diagnosing certain plays and other game-day matters, but he's also found Leber as a good resource for dealing with early-season disappointments. Leber went through a losing stretch with the San Diego Chargers, who were 4-12 in 2003 and rebounded for a 12-4 season in 2004.

Safety Tank Williams also has experience was early-season turmoil, as he experienced his turnaround story while a member of the Tennessee Titans. Williams and the Titans started the 2002 season 1-4 and ended up in the AFC Championship with an 11-5 regular-season record.

"It's one of those things where you just have to clean it up one game at a time and treat it as such. You can't think about the big picture," he said. "Everybody was kind of wondering what was going on starting off 1-4, but it was one of those things where we have to focus on the mindset of we have to focus on that next game. And then you get that one under your belt, you focus on the next one. Then once you get on a little roll – that's how this league is, if you get on a roll in November or December, then you have a chance to get to the playoffs and be successful."

Williams said there is no need for him to stand up and deliver the documentation about the Titans' 2002 revival season to his current teammates.

"There's no need to get on any soapbox. … Each person knows individually and collectively what we need to do to get this thing turned around. It's just all about going out there and doing it," he said.

The Vikings will need to start that roll in an unlikely manner, taking down the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. The Chargers are 4-3 and winners of three of their last four games.

"We're on the ropes right now. We've got to fight back. We're a fighting unit, a fighting team, so we're just going to keep playing," Greenway said. "You've always got to believe. We could be 2-12 and we're going to believe. We're going to be a tight team. No matter the circumstance, no matter what happens on this team, we want to stay together. That's more important than anything."

The Vikings do have some experience in dealing with disappointing stretches – like the last part of 2006. After starting the season with a 4-2 record, they stumbled to a 6-10 record by the end of the season.

Some of the same issues from 2006 have appeared again in the early stages of 2007. The team is still struggling in the passing game, both on offense and stopping the opponent's passing game on defense.

"We've struggled with some of the same stuff, but it's important in this thing to every week clear your mind and clear the slate – just start anew," said center Matt Birk. "One week has no bearing on the next. Whether you play well or don't play well, you have to move on and get ready for your next opponent."

Greenway and other aren't worried about players in the locker room splintering into factions.

"I'm not sure at what point that happens, but I can tell you that this locker room is not at that point," receiver Bobby Wade said. "At 2-5, we still feel that we've got a good opportunity. Obviously, it's going to take getting this week done. … I'm not sure that point will settle in at all with the veteran leaders we have in this locker room."

Even after being told that only three teams in the last 27 years have started 2-4 and made the playoffs, Wade was undaunted.

"Statistics are big in this league and I'm one that plays completely opposite from those statistics," he said. "It's just pretty much what you want to do with it and how you want to handle it, and I think this team is ready to go forward and push on every Sunday."

Birk said the most important thing is to forget what happened in the last game and move on to preparing for the upcoming one.

"I think that's what you have to do to survive. If you let things snowball on you like that, it can beat you down. Every week's a new week – you're reborn," he said.

Said Greenway: "Once you become part of something like this, when you put so much time and effort into it, it can't just be broken down in a four- or five-week period."

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