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Tice returns on anniversary of firing by Vikings

The Sports Xchange
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--Mike Tice will be in the Metrodome six years to the day that he was fired as Vikings coach following a season-ending victory over the Bears on that very same field. Now the Bears' offensive line coach, Tice finished that 2005 season with a 9-7 record following a 34-10 win over a playoff-bound Bears team that rested most of its starters. But the wins weren't enough to offset scandals that included Tice being caught for scalping Super Bowl tickets and the players' wild sex party aboard a chartered boat during the team's bye week.

The firing was awkward, to say the least. Owner Zygi Wilf had said Tice's status would be discussed the following day. But within 30 minutes of the final gun, Wilf and his brother, Mark, informed Tice that his contract would not be renewed. A two-paragraph statement was distributed throughout the locker room to reporters and the few players who were still left. Tice had already addressed the players before the Wilfs fired him.

"Whoa, that's crazy," said kick returner Koren Robinson. "In the locker room? Right after a game you just won? Give the man respect enough to wait until Monday to enjoy the win at least." Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper crumpled up the release and threw it on the floor, declining comment.

Said Tice, who had coached three of his four seasons under the frugal watch of previous owner Red McCombs: "It's a shame I'm not going to be able to work with the Wilfs. I think they're going to be top-notch owners. ... I'm very proud with a lot of the things we've accomplished with the things we've been given to work with. Of course, I'm hurt. I'm a man, not a machine." Tice finished his Vikings head coaching career with a 33-34 record, including 1-1 in the postseason.

--The final play of Brett Favre's 20-year career came against the Bears in a Monday Night Football game in Week 16 a year ago. Favre had been ruled out because of a shoulder injury two days before, but was a surprise starter as the teams played outdoors at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium because of the Metrodome's roof collapse. Favre completed 5 of 7 passes with a 23-yard touchdown to Percy Harvin and an interception before leaving with a concussion caused when his head was slammed to the frozen turf by rookie defensive end Corey Wootton. Bears coach Lovie Smith wasn't happy that Favre played after being ruled out. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler expected it, saying, "We had a few friendly wagers in the quarterback room that he'd be out there. I wasn't surprised at all."

--Vikings fans still refer to Chicago as the "tough-guy town," thanks to the approach Tice took heading into the teams' 2003 meeting in Chicago. Tice, now the Bears' offensive line coach, was searching for ways to stop what eventually became a 3-7 season-ending slide that cost the Vikings a playoff spot after a 6-0 start. Tice decided the team needed to act tougher, so he came out and basically said the team was going to run the ball all day long. During a press conference, he said "Chicago is a tough-guy town" and went on to say that it would take brute force to win in a tough-guy town. Well, the Vikings ran the ball. Onterrio Smith had 148 yards rushing. But the approach also shortened the game and gave the Vikings' offense fewer possessions in a 13-10 loss. Audio clips of Tice calling Chicago a "tough-guy town" are still played in Minnesota. To his credit, Tice, who was fired in 2005, played along with it when some poked fun at him. He did a radio spot in which he named several cities in Minnesota. After each one, Tice's "tough-guy town" clip was played.

--RB Toby Gerhart has power, a few more moves than you'd expect and decent speed. But he's no Adrian Peterson or Joe Webb when he breaks free downfield. Gerhart had the team's season-long run of 67 yards last week at Washington. But he was so gassed at the end of the run that he was caught inside the 20.

"When I came through the line, there was nothing but air in my face," Gerhart said. "But by the end of the run, it seemed like the field was tilted up a little bit."

BY THE NUMBERS
0-5 - Vikings record within the NFC North heading into Sunday's game against the Bears. The Vikings have never gone an entire season without a win within their division.

QUOTE TO NOTE
"The fact we haven't won a division game makes you want to throw up." -- DE Jared Allen, when asked what it would feel like to go 0-6 in the NFC North.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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