In the hours following their season-ending overtime loss to the Denver Broncos, the Vikings were reflecting on what might have been and looking to the future.
The Vikings' season hadn't been over for an hour when players started looking ahead to 2008.
"We went from 6-10 last year to 8-8 this year, so that is an improvement," safety Darren Sharper
said following a 22-19 overtime loss Sunday at Denver. "But we have a team that is capable of winning more games than that. Next year, we will have an opportunity to prove that.
"We have a lot of high-character guys that will keep fighting, and we do have talent. That was proven. We beat some good teams. But the thing that we have to get better at it is beating the teams that we're supposed to beat."
If the Vikings had done that in 2007 — a Week 2 overtime loss at Detroit and Week 3 defeat at Kansas City stand out as examples — Minnesota and not Washington would have been going to the playoffs.
Unlike their counterparts on many teams, Vikings players did not do their exit interviews the day after the Denver loss. Rather, those will occur on Wednesday. Coach Brad Childress is scheduled to hold a news conference the following day to review the season.
"This group battled all year long," Childress said Sunday. "The bottom line is my disappointment in not being able to take this team to the playoffs this year. I'd go back to the saying (former NFL coach) Bill Parcells had: ‘You are what your records says you are.' We are an 8-8 football team."
RB Adrian Peterson, who finished second in the NFL in rushing with 1,341 yards, on his rookie season: "I feel like it was all right. (We) accomplished some good things, but ultimately didn't accomplish our ultimate goal, and that was making it to the playoffs and giving ourselves a chance to go the Super Bowl."
WR Bobby Wade spent time with the Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans before joining the Vikings as a free agent last offseason. Asked if a change in address might help struggling WR Troy Williamson, Wade said: "Being a guy that went through two changes of scenery I definitely understand what it's like, especially being in one place where you kind of struggle. The situation in Chicago was the same way. I told (Williamson) the same thing, that's what it's about being a player. Understand that you can play and you will play, it's just a matter of you being ready when your opportunity comes. He might be one of those guys who definitely benefited from a change of scenery. But even with that said, I think he's a guy if he stayed in this offense he would still maintain and make big plays for us when we needed him to."
WR Sidney Rice expressed frustration after being inactive Sunday, saying his sprained ankle was "97 percent." "I don't know what they thought I felt, but I felt like I was ready to go," Rice said. "It seemed to me like they had already made their decision."
The Vikings finished with a team-record 2,634 yards rushing on 494 attempts this season. The team yardage total broke the mark of 2,507 set in 2002.
NT Pat Williams was limited in Sunday's game because of an injured right knee and said he expects to get the knee 'scoped after playing in the Pro Bowl.
CB Cedric Griffin suffered a sprained ankle Sunday but continued to play through the injury.
LBs E.J. Henderson and Ben Leber combined for 9.5 sacks this season, the second-highest total for a linebacker duo in team history. Ed McDaniel and Broderick Thomas hold the mark with 10.5.
TE Garrett Mills, inactive for the first 15 games of the season, not only played Sunday but also caught two passes for 26 yards. "It's tough to sit for 15 weeks, but you always have to be ready," Mills said. "I was told during the week that they were going to try to get me up (on the active list) for this game."