OTAs on the horizon: Five storylines to watch

The focus on Brett Favre can subside (somewhat) this week with the Vikings returning to the field for organized team activities starting Tuesday. Here are five storylines to watch as the week unfolds (the media is expected to have access for one day).

For the last three weeks, the news surrounding the Vikings has focused on the potential signing of quarterback Brett Favre. But with that storyline currently on the back burner, the start of the Vikings' organized team activities (OTAs) tomorrow will have its own set of players to watch. For some, this will be a welcome distraction, since the Favre news has so dominated the consciousness of Vikings fans. Here are five new storylines that will likely knock Favre off Page One for at least a little while.

  • The QB Competition – Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels were supposed to be in their own version of "NFL Survivor" – a competition between the two for the starting job in which the tribe is expected to speak and one is expected to ascend to the top spot. There are still no guarantees that Favre will come to the Vikings, so the start of OTAs could be the beginning of that two-man battle to win the starting QB spot for 2009.

  • Harvin Watch – In an ordinary offseason, the arrival of the top rookie draft pick would be dominating the headlines. But, like so many others, Percy Harvin has been forced to take a back seat to all the Favre chatter. Having missed the rookie minicamp due to illness, Harvin will have his first chance to make an impact during the OTAs. It will be an opportunity for the Vikings to show how they can utilize his unique talents and give the team its first chance to see his explosiveness up close and personal.

  • The Long Road Back – Kenechi Udeze's long battle with leukemia may come full circle during the OTAs as he attempts to make his return to the NFL. While there is still no firm timetable as to when or if he can make a return to the field, his is a story that deserves more attention than it has received and will be one that will be monitored to see if he can transition back into being an NFL player. Many thoughts and prayers are with Udeze that he can beat his cancer threat and return to playing form.

  • Will Winfield Be a No-Show? – Entering the final year of his contract and with talks of a contract extension breaking down, there are some questions as to whether Antoine Winfield will skip the OTAs. A team leader and clear veteran presence in a secondary getting younger all the time, having Winfield as part of the OTA process would be helpful for the Vikings. But, if past practice means anything, players in the final year of a contract aren't always willing to show up and do the dirty work if they believe the organization isn't showing them the respect and financial commitment they believe they deserve.

  • Replacing a Legend – The last time the Vikings entered an offseason with a question at the center position was in 2000, when veteran Jeff Christy was replaced by Matt Birk. The Vikings were vilified for allowing Christy to leave via free agency and handing the starting job to Birk – an untested young player with a lot to prove and big shoes to fill. Almost a decade later, the same scenario will play itself out. Birk is now in Baltimore and second-year pro John Sullivan is the clear frontrunner to take over the center position. Again, many fans were upset at the lack of interest the Vikings showed in retaining Birk, but, like they did when Christy was allowed to seek his fortune elsewhere, they remain confident that Sullivan can get the job done.

    While the Favre news may be on hold for now, there should be no shortage of storylines to occupy the time of Vikings fans this week, as the players who know they will be part of the 2009 season begin their defense of the NFC North title.

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