Football briefs: Childress has not lost Vikings’ locker room

Pro Football Weekly staff

The Way We Hear It

After the team fell to 3-6 last season after a 34-0 loss at Green Bay, the Vikings appeared to be a directionless team that had given up on its coach.

Not true. The Vikings rallied to win five straight games, including a 24-point road win over the eventual-champion Giants, before falling from the race. And we hear that despite a 1-3 start that has included a major QB change, the players remain on point with what head coach Brad Childress is pitching them.

There appears to be no dissent in the locker room, despite the offensive struggles. The players know that other than switching QBs last season, there was no vast shift in offensive philosophy that led to the five-game winning streak, so the thinking is that eventually things will work out better — especially with OLT Bryant McKinnie returning from his four-game suspension and QB Gus Frerotte getting into a groove of being the starter every week.

NFL Whispers

PATRIOTS: There’s a growing faction in Foxborough that believes rookie QB Kevin O’Connell should be considered for the starting job if Matt Cassel continues to struggle. Having started four years at San Diego State, O’Connell’s playing experience actually trumps Cassel’s, and his teammates have perhaps even more trust in him than they do in Cassel, a fourth-year Patriot. As one team source told us, “you know (the players) aren’t crazy about Matt when the best they say about him is that he’s ‘enthusiastic.’ No team wants a glorified cheerleader running their offense.”

COLTS: As much as the Colts miss the physicality of S Bob Sanders (ankle), sources tell us they’re not about to compensate by asking tough, rugged CBs Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden to be bigger presences in the box and in traffic. The Colts are poised to just grind it out while awaiting Sanders’ return, not wanting to uproot their defensive philosophy for the sake of temporary relief.

JAGUARS: Rather than getting all gimmicky to atone for their O-line woes, the Jaguars are intent on establishing themselves as physical forces regardless of their personnel. That said, we hear it wouldn’t be surprising if versatile RB Maurice Jones-Drew gets increasing chances to make things happen in space off the short passing game.

The Fantasy Buzz

Don’t get discouraged by Bears RB Matt Forté’s Week Four effort (85 yards from scrimmage, no touchdowns); most running backs find the sledding tough against the Eagles. The Lions, though, are another story. They couldn’t stop the run against a half-dozen Detroit-area high schools, allowing a ridiculous 207.7 yards a game. Look for a big bounce back from the rookie this Sunday.

Lions RB Rudi Johnson was named the Lions’ new starter this week, but that doesn’t mean you should play him. The Bears have buckled down against the run, allowing only 79.3 yards per contest, so Detroit is more likely to test them through the air. Also, Johnson will give up some carries to rookie Kevin Smith, further lowering his value.

Redskins TE Chris Cooley hasn’t quite lived up to his preseason hype early on, averaging 44.8 yards and scoring no TDs, but a date with Philly could change his luck. The Eagles have allowed a tight end to either lead his team in receiving or catch a TD in all four games they’ve played, making Cooley a good bet to do one of those two this week at the Linc.

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