INDIANAPOLIS - The Vikings' failure to open contract negotiations with Matt Birk during the past season led many to deduce the six-time Pro Bowl center would be leaving the team after 11 years.
But that might not be the case. Birk's agent, Joe Linta, met with Vikings officials on Friday and said the team wants the St. Paul native to return. With Birk set to become an unrestricted free agent at 11 p.m. Thursday, negotiations are expected to continue.
"I'd love to have him back," coach Brad Childress said while attending the NFL Scouting Combine. Asked if he thought Birk wanted to return, Childress said: "You'd have to talk to Matt about that. I think that means something to him. That he could stay in the same place for his whole career. There is no downside."
Birk, reached at home Friday, expressed a desire to return. "I spoke with Coach Childress a couple of days ago," he said. "I know Joe met with those guys [Friday] and it's encouraging. It would be great to remain with the Vikings."
Another of the Vikings' pending free agents is Jim Kleinsasser, one of the NFL's top blocking tight ends. "I want Jim to come back and he knows that," Childress said. "He knew that last year. I think he's in a decent spot, mentally. He'd like to finish as a Minnesota Viking."
The Vikings are planning to meet with all of the agents for their free agents this weekend at the combine.Slowing Adrian
This might be hard to believe, but the Vikings actually want Adrian Peterson to slow down, although not on the field. Childress said that after Peterson's standout rookie year in 2007, the Pro Bowl running back kept an offseason pace that might have been too hectic and didn't allow him to work on his craft as much as necessary.
"I think that people pulled him in a lot of different directions, by his own admission last year," Childress said. "He's already made changes in that regimen just coming away from the Pro Bowl. He'll spend some more time on the football aspects of it with [running backs coach] Eric Bieniemy."
Asked to elaborate, Childress said: "[Peterson] literally could do an event and crisscross the United States and probably the globe every day and get paid astronomical amounts of money. But there's a price to pay for that in terms of wear and tear on your body and working out and that type of thing. I think he knows now having played 16 games [in a season] that he needs to rest."
Peterson and Bieniemy are expected to spend the offseason focusing on blocking in an attempt to get Peterson on the field more in passing situations.
As for Peterson's stated goal of gaining 7 to 12 pounds this offseason, Childress didn't seem concerned, saying: "If it's good weight, I don't think it will hurt Adrian. Eric Bieniemy told me [Peterson] looked skinny at the Pro Bowl. I don't know what skinny was."Etc.
• Childress said linebacker E.J. Henderson, who was placed on injured reserve after four games because of dislocated toes on his left foot last season, is doing great. "He probably could have played at the end of the year," Childress said. "But I think what ended up happening, it allowed him to go a little slower with his rehab, as opposed to feeling like there was a gun to his head to get back."
• Asked if the Vikings would be interested in Michael Vick, Childress said: "I really don't get into hypotheticals because I just think there is too much water that's got to happen."