Mike Tice's trip down to the Casa de McCombs in San Antonio won't be a long one -- he's expected back late tonight or tomorrow -- but the first result of his face-to-face meetings with the Vikings owner could be the release of a couple of coaches and perhaps the changing of the pecking order in the coaching staff.
Almost sure to be gone is quarterbacks coach Alex Wood. He technically won't be fired -- it's expected his position will simply be eliminated and assumed by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
The same fate may not exist for Jay Hayes. Fired by Steelers coach Bill Cowher when a pair of special teams touchdowns -- one on a punt return and another on a blocked kick -- cost the Steelers a trip to the Super Bowl last year. Sound familiar? It does to McCombs and he has made several statements about the sorry state of the Vikings special teams this year. That in itself could mark the exit of Hayes.
Another rumor that has been gaining steam is that defensive line coach George O'Leary may assume a larger role with the defense. Whether that manifests itself in input on the draft or a hand in personnel decisions is unknown. While those rumors have been coming to VU's door for the last week, they have never been accompanied with talk of defensive coordinator Willie Shaw's being in jeopardy. So the plan is still a mystery.
When Tice returns, all of those questions will likely be clarified and the changes may come as soon as this weekend.
* Former Viking and current Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has been given permission to leave the team tomorrow to fly to Cincinnati to interview for the Bengals head coaching job.
* Matt Birk has been named the Vikings players union representative. He replaces Daunte Culpepper, who served as the team's acting representative last year.
* Steve Mariucci is apparently going to be offered a contract extension, a 49ers source of VU's told us Thursday. That would eliminate another team off Dennis Green's wish list. It now looks like if Green wants to return as a coach in the NFL, it will likely have to be with the Jaguars, unless the Lions opt to gas-pipe Marty Mornhinweg and Matt Millen.
* The Vikings officially signed practice squad players TE Jeff Kostrewa and RB Larry Ned. To remain with a team, practice squad players must be re-signed once the season ends.
* One practice squad player who won't be back is 2001 fourth-round guard Ed Ta'amu. Seen a project to eventually have a chance to replace David Dixon or Corbin Lacina, Ta'amu was injured and didn't show a lot of progress with the team. He signed with the Texans Wednesday.
* It looks like center Cory Withrow will likely be gone. A restricted free agent, Withrow cleaned out his locker in anticipation of trying to hook on with another team in free agency. Withrow is a valuable player who could start with many teams, but, since he's behind Matt Birk, his chances of starting with the Vikes are remote and it looks like the team won't match an offer if he gets a chance to start with someone else.
Coaches to Find Out Fate Soon
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