Sid Hartman: Negativity over Vikings is big mystery to Birk

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 28, 2007 - 10:23 PM

The Pro Bowl center is optimistic over the upcoming season for the Vikings, both for himself and his teammates, after a season of adjustment in 2006.

Matt Birk -- ready for a big season after perhaps being a little rusty in 2006 -- doesn't agree with the pessimism a lot of people seem to have over the 2007 edition of the Vikings.

"You know, every year the so-called experts try to predict who's going to be good and who isn't and they rarely are right. You'd have better luck probably just throwing darts," Birk said.

The former Cretin-Derham Hall athlete looks at last year and said he believes it was one of transition for the Vikings, with a new coaching staff and a group of new players.

"There's definitely an adjustment process; you get a bunch of new people working together for the first time, you know, you've got to iron out the kinks," he said.

Birk is convinced the Vikings will be an improved team in 2007 and win more games. "I'm an eternal optimist," he said.

"I mean the difference between success and failure, winning and losing, it's a very slim margin in the NFL."

The Vikings were 6-10 last year. But they lost six games by a total of 26 points: 19-16 to the Bears, 17-12 to the Bills, 9-3 to the 49ers, 23-17 and 9-7 to the Packers and 24-20 to the Dolphins.

Coach Brad Childress looks back on his first season and says with a break or two here and there, they could have reversed the record and been 10-6.

As for Birk, he still made his fifth Pro Bowl following the 2006 season even after he sat out 2005 because of hip surgery. Asked about his performance this year, Birk said: "I'll definitely be more comfortable. I mean that's my goal every offseason, to work harder and work better and to improve."

Birk, the second-highest paid center in the NFL to Chicago's Olin Kreutz, has two seasons left on the seven-year, $31 million extension he signed before the 2001 season, and he is to be paid $4.6 million in 2007. There was thought of redoing Birk's contract, but he said: "Nope, we're just going to keep it as is. We visited it but ... we both decided we'll just keep it the same."

Johnson optimistic

Hennepin County Commissioner Randy Johnson said a scheduled March 30 meeting to bring the Twins stadium problem to a head has been postponed until April 10 because there are too many details up in the air, including trying to find a solution over what to do with the railroad connected with the stadium.

"We were going to meet on March 30th in a close legal briefing, and a board meeting. I'm in the process of canceling that and rescheduling it to our April 10th meeting," he said.

Johnson said no deal is in place for the acquisition of the land but added: "Oh yes, I'm definitely optimistic. I'm optimistic about this and I'm optimistic about merging the [Minneapolis city and Hennepin County] libraries too, I'm an optimist."

In regard to the problem with the railroad, Johnson said: "Well, in order not to build over the existing tracks, which is a construction challenge, we are working with them to move their tracks, that becomes a question of how much more of a spur line they need and how much of that we should pay for and then the air-rights," Johnson said.

About the negotiations for the land -- with the Pohlad family to pay for the difference if the price comes in higher than the $13.35 million the county has offered -- Johnson said, "I think that's a detail that's pretty well set."

Johnson said he didn't think the start of construction would be delayed. "We're very close," he said.

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