Vikings linebacker Emmanuel Lamur spent four seasons in Cincinnati, the first two under Mike Zimmer, who was defensive coordinator. The Bengals made the playoffs both of those seasons.

Sunday the Vikings are facing a Bengals squad that recently played very well against the Steelers, who are tied for the best record in the NFL. But the Bengals lost to the Bears 33-7 last week and are missing five defensive starters.

There's no question that the Vikings should win this game and clinch the NFC North championship.

Lamur, who is questionable for Sunday's game because of a foot injury, was asked what he learned about what it takes to make the playoffs in those years in Cincinnati.

"I'd definitely say that paying attention to the little details, staying focused, work on your craft and not forgetting how you started," he said. "At the end of the day it's how you finish, so just continue to pay attention to the little details and get better."

What can the Vikings can expect Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, despite the Bengals' loss to Chicago?

"We know they're going to come with everything they've got. That's something we expect," Lamur said. "They're a great team. A very young team, actually, and pretty much the same defensive concepts as ours."

Does he think there's any concern about the Bengals knowing Zimmer's defense so well?

"Just from film studying over the years he has done a great job of just adding on a few change-ups and a few plays and things of that nature," Lamur said. "He has done a great job with this defense. It's pretty much the same concept but run things with different terminology. Coach Zim has done a great job, a marvelous job of expanding his knowledge throughout the game. You can see that over the years."

Talented teachers

Lamur said that coming out of Kansas State as an undrafted free agent and getting to learn under Zimmer has been a great blessing in his career.

"He has been a major influence, Coach Zim," Lamur said. "I have been with him for a few years, but he's also a great teacher, a great role model. He does a great job of building on and helping guys become great players and great teachers. I salute Coach Zim. He's one of the greatest in my eyes, my opinion, to do it. He's a great defensive coach and head coach."

Lamur has gotten great lessons from veteran cornerback Terence Newman, who was his teammate with the Bengals and now here in Minnesota.

"He is definitely a role model. I'll definitely say a person that exemplifies being a professional is Terence Newman," he said. "I would definitely put his name on that list. Not only is he a great player on the field but off the field."

Lamur has been a standout on special teams while backing up at linebacker this season. And he said he's eager to go against former teammates A.J. Green and Andy Dalton.

"It's going to be very exciting to face those guys," he said. "It's going to be very exiting, and it's going to be a battle."

U fundraising efforts

Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle reports that the U still must raise about $60 million of the $166 million budget for the Athletes Village, which will open next month. One of the big questions around project financing has been the university's decision to take on debt in order to finance construction.

Brian Burnett, the senior vice president for finance and operations, detailed how debt service will work.

"We try and structure very competitive interest rates for athletics as they're raising money because we know they're going to bring in gifts over the next 10 years," Burnett said. "So we don't put debt way out 20 years when we know they're going to bring money in over the next 10. … That is part of the ability of a place like the University of Minnesota to be able to help their athletic department finance this facility."

Burnett said that the athletic department never has taken on a loan like this. Large loans were taken out for construction of TCF Bank Stadium, but that was a combination of public funding and university funding.

The payments for the Athletes Village are expected to be around $3.6 million each year for principal and interest, Burnett said.

Coyle said the athletic department will have no problem paying that.

"We feel comfortable that we can cover that new debt service working closely with Brian and his office," he said. "Our operating budget will be able to cover that."

Necessary costs

Earlier this month University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said there was no question that going into debt to build these facilities was the right thing to do.

Coyle believes that this project, which the Gophers have been trying to accomplish for over a decade, is going to lead to a brighter future in major sports.

"I'm excited about the future. I'm excited about the fact that if you look at our department as a whole, the last two years we have won 11 Big Ten championships, from women's soccer, hockey, women's hockey, we won 11 conference championships," he said. "That is third in the Big Ten. We have a lot of success. We have a broad-based program, as you know, and now the challenge is how do we get football to compete at a high, high level like a lot of our programs are doing. That is what we're trying to do."

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: