Bernard Berrian was happy during his time with the Chicago Bears, a four-year period during which he caught 150 passes for 2,197 yards and 13 touchdowns.

But the wide receiver signed a free-agent contract with the Vikings for $42 million over six years, including $16 million guaranteed, when the Bears didn't meet his asking price. Chicago reportedly offered him $25 million over five years.

"I know they wanted to [keep me]. It's just the price wasn't right," he said. "So, I didn't feel that I was going to be worth that amount, so they didn't go after me."

Berrian started off slow with the Vikings but now has caught 22 passes for 436 yards and two touchdowns. He also drew the pass interference penalty that led to the victory at New Orleans. He is averaging 19.8 yards per reception.

Last week against the Lions he turned a short reception into an 86-yard touchdown, and he believes he is ready for a good season even though he is not 100 percent healthy because of a toe problem.

A year ago, the Bears slumped to a 7-9 record after losing to the Colts in the Super Bowl the season before, but Berrian believes the Vikings will face a much improved Chicago team Sunday.

"They're playing better on both sides of the ball," said Berrian, a second-round pick by Chicago in 2004 out of Fresno State. "They're moving the ball passing, they're moving the ball running, they've got their running game going again.

"Their passing game is elevated and Kyle Orton is doing a nice job spreading the ball around to a lot of different receivers. And the defense is back to playing the way they were playing two years ago."

Berrian looks for a close game Sunday at Soldier Field.

"It's going to be a great game, two good defenses, offenses are similar," he said. "We're playing at their turf, so it's going to be a hostile environment. It's going for first place in the division. So it means a lot for both sides."

If Gus Frerotte can complete some long passes, it will open up the running game for Adrian Peterson, and that could mean a victory in the most important game of the young season.

Similar situations

Yes, the Gophers football season has a ways to go. But if their success keeps up, you can find some similarities between this team and the 1960 group that tied for first in the Big Ten and went to the Rose Bowl.

The Gophers in 1959 under Murray Warmath were 2-7 before making the big jump to 8-2 in 1960. Last year, the Gophers were 1-11 in their first year under Tim Brewster, but they are 6-1 this season.

Like Brewster, Warmath was able to add two good recruiting classes to make the jump. A year ago, Brewster lost six games by a touchdown or less. Warmath's seven losses in 1959 included 6-0 to Northwestern, 14-6 to Illinois, 14-6 to Michigan and 11-7 to Wisconsin.

Warmath's recruiting of outstanding players such as Bobby Bell (who played from 1960 to '62), Bill Munsey (1960-62), Sandy Stephens (1959-61), Tom Brown (1958-60) and Judge Dickson (1959-61), among others, made it possible for the Gophers to go to two Rose Bowls in a row. The team was 8-2 in 1961, too. All those players ranked among all-time Gophers greats.

Now -- if Brewster's team can continue to win -- maybe there will be a miracle like there was with the Gophers of 1960 and '61.

Jottings

Jim Kleinsasser, who caught two passes in Sunday's victory over Detroit -- doubling his season total -- said: "I'm obviously a big body so blocking is my main deal. That's what I do. My fullback days have passed me, I think." He had one reception for 34 yards, of which he said: "The big one, we worked on it and we actually had it up early in the game, but we didn't get to it, so we came back to it in the fourth quarter there and got it done. We're always working out stuff. It's not like I don't run routes in practice or anything, but it came in the game at the right time." The four receptions he has this season match his 16-game total from 2007. Kleinsasser can be a free agent after the season. Asked if the Vikings have approached him about a contract, he said: "No. I'm just worried about this year right now, worried about the Bears."

Asked about playing at Soldier Field, Vikings safety Darren Sharper said: "I think [the Bears are] a lot more confident at home than on the road, like most teams are. Soldier Field is a tough place to play. We've got a little bit of a taste of a hostile environment going to New Orleans and pulling that game out, so we should have the confidence that we can go anywhere and get a victory." Sharper noted that the weather is supposed to be sunny with little wind Sunday, so the conditions might not play much of a factor. Like Kleinsasser, Sharper also can be a free agent this year but hasn't talked about a contract for 2009.

Scout.com lists Gophers receiver Eric Decker as a first-team midseason All-America. ... Breck's Bryce McNeal, ranked as one of the top wide receivers in the country, committed to Michigan on May 17, but at the time he indicated to people that if the Gophers had a winning season he might change his mind. Well, McNeal has withdrawn his commitment to Michigan, and now if the Gophers continue to win, he might be wearing the maroon and gold next year.

Bill Robertson of the Wild said that right winger Antti Miettinen became the first player in Wild history to score goals in each of his first two games. Miettinen then scored two more goals in Thursday's victory at Florida, giving him five in three games. ... The Wild finishes its three-game road trip Saturday at Tampa Bay, which not only has former North Stars No. 1 overall pick Brian Lawton as director of hockey operations, it also has defenseman Mike Lundin, who played at Apple Valley High School, and forward Ryan Malone, who played at Shattuck St. Mary's and St. Cloud State. Former Wild player Wes Walz is a Lightning assistant coach under Barry Melrose, and former Wild forward Adam Hall also is on the roster. ... The Wild's 3-0 record continues a recent trend, as the team went 6-0 to start two years ago and 5-0 last year.

Trevor Mbakwe, the former St. Bernard's and Henry Sibley basketball standout who played last season at Marquette and now is attending Miami-Dade Community Colllege, will make an official visit to the Gophers and coach Tubby Smith for "Tubby's Tipoff" tonight at Williams Arena. Mbakwe missed most of last season because of an injury, then chose to leave Marquette just before the start of fall classes.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com