Vikings wide receivers coach George Stewart spent the past four years on the Atlanta Falcons staff.
Stewart looks for Atlanta to provide a real test for the Vikings on Sunday, even though the Falcons are without suspended quarterback Michael Vick and will miss him in the run game.
"They're not a one-man football team, and I think they'll be able to come in here and play well without Michael, but it will be interesting to see," Stewart said.
Vick will be sentenced Dec. 10 after pleading guilty to federal dogfighting charges. Stewart said: "Mike led our football team. He was the one that got our receivers out during the course of the offseason a year ago and was throwing balls during the offseason. Our guys respected Michael and when I was there, I never saw anything that was the nature to have concern with Michael Vick, and it's just unfortunate that this happened."
Stewart, who was close to Vick, said he was surprised when he heard the news.
"I hope that he can continue to get on with his life and be very productive after this situation is over," Stewart said.
Stewart said injuries played a part in the Falcons going 7-9 last year, resulting in the firing of coach Jim Mora.
"Their defense is outstanding. They're very fast, they can run, they're ball-hawkers, you know anytime you have [middle linebacker] Keith Brooking and [cornerback] DeAngelo Hall on your football team, you've got a chance to have a pretty good defense, and we're preparing right now for them.
"They have a lot of speed: Michael Boley at one linebacker, Demorrio Williams at the other one. Again, you've got a guy like DeAngelo Hall. [Safety] Lawyer Milloy is a great football player. I mean, they have a bunch of Pro Bowlers on that side of the football."
Offense good, too
Stewart said Atlanta has two standout running backs in Warrick Dunn, in his sixth year with the Falcons, and Jerious Norwood, a 2006 third-round draft pick from Mississippi State.
"Dunn is still a good player 11 years in the league, and over 1,000 yards the last three years, but that Jerious Norwood had a chance to be around him a year ago; that kid is special and he's an excellent running back," Stewart said. "I always said if you give a kid a crack, he can take it the distance, and that's one thing he has the ability to do. He did it in college and he did it last year for us."
As for wide receivers, Stewart noted that Atlanta got veteran Joe Horn from New Orleans to go along with former first-round picks Michael Jenkins and Roddy White, two players "capable of having big days," Stewart said. "We have to do a great job of defensively playing against those guys."
Yes, the Vikings don't need another disappointment like the one on Jan. 17, 1999, when the Falcons won 30-27 in overtime at the Metrodome for the NFC championship and the right to play in the Super Bowl.
Rex Kalamian was under contract as a Timberwolves assistant coach for the upcoming season, but Glen Taylor allowed Kalamian a release to become an assistant with the Sacramento Kings last month because Taylor believed the Kings job offered him a better opportunity.
There were rumors that University of Oregon officials asked Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi for permission to talk to U baseball coach John Anderson. Oregon, which killed off its baseball program in 1981, is bringing it back for the 2008-09 season.
"Somebody might have talked to Anderson but nobody ever talked to me," Maturi said.