Maintaining Poise While Losing

Star players and coaches are trying to stay poised off the field while enduring a frustrating season on the field.

After the Vikings lost to the Patriots in New England, receiver Randy Moss told reporters, "There's a lot going through my mind that I want to blow out and say what it is and who it is."

Moss' refusal to answer questions about quarterback Daunte Culpepper's woes and his relationship with the struggling quarterback triggered national speculation about a potential strained relationship.

On Monday, Moss and Culpepper were seen in a room near the Vikings locker room engaged in a lengthy conversation, reportedly clearing the air.

Vikings head coach Mike Tice said the alleged rift may be getting overanalyzed because the team is mired in a losing season. "When you lose, everything gets magnified," Tice said. "Two guys are seen talking — they're fighting. I'm using my hands — I'm yelling."

Culpepper agreed. "Severely overblown," he said. "I don't have a problem with Randy and he doesn't have a problem with me. … If there is a problem, we talk it out. Other than that, there's no problem.

"When you lose — I haven't lost a lot in my career — and when you lose a lot like last year, things get magnified. We're both professionals. Outside of football, we're good friends."

When Tice took over as head coach of the Vikings, he wrote one word on the chalkboard in his first team meeting with his players: "Respect."

His message was clear. He wanted the entire Vikings organization to show respect not only for each other but for coaches, fans and the media as well. It is that respect, players and coaches say, that has kept the team close during a tumultuous season.

"Having respect for each other, if you can do that, it naturally brings you closer together," Chamberlain said. "This year there's a different kind of chemistry in the locker room, so it's not hard to stick together."

Tice reiterated his message this week. "This being the holidays, with Thanksgiving, we still have to know that respect is a big part of what we need to do," Tice said. "Respect — each other, the coaches, fans, the media — we can't lose all of that when we're losing.

"If we're going to build this the right way, those things are important."

Defensive tackle Chris Hovan said players' respect for Tice is evident throughout the locker room. "Everyone has respect. Everybody wants to play for him," Hovan said.

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