Minnesota has same 22 starters of last season back, some better than before
On paper, it looks like the Minnesota Vikings have what it takes to be the next Super Bowl champs
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Brad Childress has gone from six victories in 2006 to eight, 10 and 12 in the seasons that followed. Another two-victory increase in 2010 would be a vault more than a step, but it’s not out of the question with the talent the Minnesota Vikings have in camp.
One important figure, Brett Favre, will not be seen until the third week of August, when the Vikings are preparing for their second exhibition.
The Aug. 22 game at San Francisco is Sunday night and nationally televised by NBC. The network will do as much pleading as it takes with the Favre camp to have him available to take his first few snaps of the preseason.
The Vikings’ two-week stay in Mankato, Minn., will be overshadowed nationally by the occasional and meaningless Favre bulletins from Hattiesburg, Miss. Meantime, the rest of the lads will be going through 22 practices that will assist Childress and his staff in making no important decisions.
None are necessary, what with a roster that carries the same 22 players who made the most starts at their positions in 2009.
This includes middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and former Texas Longhorns cornerback Cedric Griffin, both returning from injuries. There’s a chance Henderson will be back to play middle linebacker in the opener at New Orleans on Sept. 9. Griffin’s return will be a few weeks later, with veteran Lito Sheppard expected to take the starts at right corner until then.
There’s also the risk of more injuries, but for now, it’s astounding in this era of free agency to see the Vikings positioned to have the same 22 players make the most starts for two consecutive seasons.
There was incredible roster stability during the Vikings’ glory years from 1969 through 1977, yet there were never two consecutive seasons when Bud Grant had the same 22 get the most starts.
It wasn’t frugality or a lack of creativity that led to this current absence of change. This team demonstrated in January — with the annihilation of the ballyhooed Cowboys and a bad-luck loss to the Saints in New Orleans — the nucleus was in place to enter 2010 among a few Super Bowl favorites.
Go ahead. Rate the Purple pieces from 1 to 5.
Defensive front: 5. Linebacker: 4, with Henderson. Cornerback: 3 now, 4 with Griffin. Safeties: 3, with improvement from Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson, plus depth with Jamarca Sanford.
Offensive front: 4, with Phil Loadholt getting better at right tackle. Receivers: 5 — and that’s ignoring a healthy, more involved Bernard Berrian. Running back: 5. Quarterback: 4, based on a slight drop off from 2009 for the Great Prevaricator. This bunch is loaded. This franchise has reached the playoffs in 25 of its 49 seasons. All 25 have ended with a loss — even 1968, when the Vikings had a chance to end a playoff season with a victory without winning the Super Bowl and lost 17-13 to Dallas in the prestigious NFL Playoff Bowl.
Yup. The Vikes couldn’t even win the last one when the stake was third place.
Considering that history, the start of training camp should be greeted more with trepidation than joy among Vikings fans.
That’s especially true with the 25th vision of doom being so fresh:
An ill-thought pass over the middle from an ancient warrior having the least careless campaign of a Hall of Fame career.
Vikings lifers should expect tradition to continue in the team’s 50th season. They should expect the end to come as a kick to the stomach, but then you look at this roster.
Look at the defense. Look at Favre’s weapons.
This is it, ye purple of heart. This is the playoff season that ends with a victory.
Minnesota Viking quarterback Brett Favre catches a pass in Hattiesburg, Miss., where he helps high schoolers practice. He’ll be back for the Vikings’ season most likely.
Minnesota linebackers E.J. Henderson, top, helps bring down Chicago Bears running back Adrian Peterson in 2007. Henderson will be back from an injury this season, perhaps for the opener.