Big things are expected of the Vikings this year, but at least one player says it's important that the team gets off to a fast start so it controls it own destiny at the end of the regular season.
Last year, the Vikings were a team that flew under the NFL radar for a considerable portion of the season. After losing three of their first four games and five of their first seven, the Vikings looked like a team in disarray. It was only after a five-game winning streak that improved the Vikings to 8-6 that people began to view them as a playoff team.
In fact, when the Vikings played the Washington Redskins
on Sunday night in a Week 16 contest Dec. 23, they controlled their own destiny and a win in that game would have locked up a playoff spot. Instead, the Vikings lost 32-21 in a game that wasn't as close as that score would indicate and their 2007 playoff hopes were shot down.
A year later, the Vikings have addressed their biggest problem areas through trade, the draft and free agency – wide receiver, defensive end and safety. Jared Allen
is arguably the best pass-rushing defensive end in the league. Bernard Berrian
has been impressing coaches and teammates with his electric speed and Madieu Williams
and rookie Tyrell Johnson
are giving the team youth at safety that was sorely lacking last year when the safety position consisted of Darren Sharper
and a series of veteran castoffs like Dwight Smith
and Mike Doss
With the new additions and the anticipated improvement of second-year starters Adrian Peterson
, Chad Greenway
and Sidney Rice
, the Vikings would appear to be as prepared to make a deep playoff run as they have been since Dennis Green
was the team's head coach.
When asked if he thought the talent on this year's team had the Vikings as equipped to make a Super Bowl run as any team in his tenure with the organization, Sharper said that the key is not digging a hole like the team did in 2007.
"I think we've always been equipped to be successful," Sharper said. "Last year we had a playoff team but we didn't perform well enough in the games late that we needed to win. I think all starts with winning games early on. You don't want to get to a point later in the season saying that you have to win this game and hope somebody else has to lose. That's a bad situation to be in. If we can start out fast and win the games we're supposed to win, everything will be fine."
Considering that the 2008 season is going to begin with a road game at Green Bay, the home opener against Indianapolis and tough early opponents in Carolina, New Orleans and Tennessee, the Vikings will have to be strong coming out of the gate to avoid having to make another late-season surge to be successful.
As reported yesterday, Bobby Wade tweaked a knee in the afternoon practice Monday and, while he downplayed the injury, it appeared to be severe enough that it could limit him in practice. Wade did not suit up for the morning practice today.
TE Garrett Mills, who suffered a sprained left ankle in practice Monday after a collision with Madieu Williams, was also on the sideline this morning at practice.
Packers General Manager Ted Thompson told reporters Monday that he won't consider sending Brett Favre to the Vikings in a trade. When asked how that differed from the teams making a deal on draft day that allowed the Vikings to move up in the fifth round to take QB John David Booty, Thompson said that trading draft picks isn't all that unusual for division rivals, but that player-for-player trades are extremely rare – especially a player like Favre, who is good enough to tip the balance of power within the division.
Thompson also denied allegations that linked the "smoking gun" to a team-issued cell phone, saying that, to his knowledge, no such phones exist.
Commissioner Roger Goodell told a group of reporters at the Buffalo Bills training camp that the investigation of tampering allegations against the Vikings in the Favre fiasco is ongoing and that an announcement will be forthcoming – perhaps as early as this week. While Favre had made statements that would explain correspondence between himself and Vikings coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Goodell reiterated that the league takes tampering very seriously and is doing a thorough investigation into the allegations. If found guilty, the Vikings could be subject to a fine and/or loss of draft picks.
Former Viking Cris Carter has been added the lineup of "Sunday Countdown" for ESPN television as a studio analyst, as well as working the studio show for Monday night games.
If fans of the St. Louis Rams thought the ownership of the late Georgia Frontiere had its strange moments, imagine their shock when it was reported that conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh is considering buying the team. Limbaugh, a native of Cape Girardeau, Mo., said he is considering throwing his hat into the ownership ring, but said he wouldn't be hands-on, saying, "The worst thing that could happen is for a fan to buy the team."