Combine Week Has Vikings Busy

The Vikings are in full preparation mode for the NFL Scouting Combine. which opens Thursday and runs through Sunday in Indianapolis.

Perhaps no draft in recent memory has held more importance to a Vikings organization. After a couple of years of injury-prone players and general lack of production from several first-day picks, the Vikings are focused on April's draft as absolutely critical.

"We're expecting to come out of (the draft) with three guys who can start right away or be big contributors," Mike Tice told VU. That hasn't happened in recent drafts and last year's was probably the biggest disappointment.

OT Bryant McKinnie held out until midseason and was never in the shape he will be next year. Raonall Smith was injured and missed almost all of 2002. Willie Offord played his way out of the lineup.

The Vikings hopes will be tied in tightly to the Combine, since all the players except perhaps the highest of the first-rounders will be in Indianapolis to showcase themselves. If the Vikings see the right things from the right players, it could be a sign of things to come in 2003. If they overshoot -- like everyone thinks they did with both Smith and Offord last year -- it could be another long season if three guys are being counted on as starters next season.

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