When Jeff Christy left the Vikings to go to Tampa Bay via free agency, then-offensive line coach Mike Tice gave a VU staffer a wink and said, "Don't worry. We've got it covered."
"Covered" meant Matt Birk, a Harvard grad who was going to take over at center. The rest is history. Birk has become a Pro Bowl player and the Vikes have him locked up. The question that still remains is whether his consecutive-game streak of 37 will survive Sunday? It will.
While Tice is being non-committal about Birk -- a growing trend for Vikings fans -- VU has been told that, when the Vikings offense takes the field Sunday, Birk will be in the starting lineup.
A gamer from the the start, Birk is fighting a knee injury that many Pro Bowl-caliber players would use as an excuse to sit. But, from what we're being told, Birk knows the ramifications of a loss Sunday -- the semi-official end to playoff hopes -- and he is going to give it a shot. He may not play the entire game -- Cory Withrow is waiting in the wings with helmet in hand -- but Birk is will start Sunday regardless of injury report status.
* On the topic of bogus injury listings, VU has been told by a Jets source that WR Wayne Chrebet will start despite a bad knee. However, Chrebet is likely to see only part-time duty after the first series.
* VU heard whispers that, after the trade deadline past mid-week, that no less than three teams called the Vikings about a deal for RB Doug Chapman. While valued by the Vikes, he isn't the featured back (Michael Bennett) or the short-yardage back (Moe Williams). While currently a man without a position, the Vikings declined trade offers -- which VU was told were low-ball offers that weren't even seriously considered.
* The Bryant McKinnie holdout clock has quit counting up -- for the record, 85 days -- but continues to tick toward Nov. 12, which is the drop-dead date for a player to be signed as part of the draft. VU continues to hear that any contract deal offered by Red McCombs to McKinnie at this point would have a two- or three-tiered signing bonus -- which would clear McCombs of much of the damage when/if he sells the team.
* Thanksgiving Day of 2000. That's the last time the Vikings won a road game. The streak is at 13 heading into the Meadowlands -- the site of the most painful loss of the streak, when the Vikes lost to the Giants in the 2000 NFC Championship Game.
* Star-Tribune columnist C.J., a longtime friend of VU, teased a bombshell about a former Viking player coming out as gay. While she was upset that the player -- who she refused to name (to her credit) -- has opted to go with a national source (Bryant Gumbel) to make the annoucement, the early reaction for Vikings fans is one of wondering who the player is. For a team with too many distractions already this year, media inquiries to respond to the "outing" is something the Vikes don't need right now.
* Don't be shocked if you see an injury Sunday resulting from the field conditions. In a discussion with a VU Jets source, we were told that the Jets and Giants players have been openly complaining about the sorry condition of the grass at the Meadowlands and that the greatest fear among Jets coaches is that a key player will sustain a serious injury before the turf can be repaired. A full repair is impossible, since both the Giants and Jets won't be using the Meadowlands in any week until Dec. 21, when both teams are on the road.
Birk Will Play Sunday
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