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Vikings owner says Tice's job as coach is safe

Daunte Culpepper's knee is hurting, Randy Moss is in Oakland and the Vikings are sputtering. Still, coach Mike Tice's job as head coach appears to be safe.

Owner Zygi Wilf told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Tice won't be fired during the season, no matter how much the team struggles.

"I'm backing our coach 100 percent," Wilf told the newspaper. "I'm going to do whatever is necessary to give him whatever help he needs to improve our team. I don't know if he's always gotten that. He's our coach for this season, as we have said many times before. So that's the situation, and my message is: 'Let's go try to win our division.'"

Though the Vikings are just 1-3 in 2005, they are only a half-game out of first-place in the NFC North, where the Bears and Lions, both 1-2, share the division lead.

Tice was more than an hour late to his scheduled
press conference with the media on Monday, leading some to whisper
about whether or not Wilf had decided to fire him on
the spot.

Once he did emerge from a team meeting, a sullen Tice was
forthright and blunt -- knowing that a 1-3 start, which includes
being outscored 67-18 in two losses on the road, has fans calling
for his ouster.

"That goes with losing," Tice said. "If I am not doing my
job, then they should call for my head. Right now, I'm not doing my
job because we are 1-3. I need to continue to work to do my job
better. ... I believe when all is said and done and evaluated at
the end, I will have done my job. Right now, it is hard to say I am
doing my job when we are 1-3."

Three anonymous Vikings players told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Tice questioned his own leadership at the meeting and even mentioned possibly resigning. The players told the newspaper that they believed Tice had quit on the team after the meeting.

However, center Matt Birk, who is out for the season after hip surgery, told the newspaper that the players in question were "trying to tear us apart. They're unhappy with their personal situations."

Birk also told the newspaper that Tice never mentioned resigning at the meeting.

"At no time did Mike Tice say he was quitting," Birk told the Pioneer Press. "The whole point of the meeting was he was not quitting. And by having that meeting, it was for the benefit of the team, to try and figure out how we can turn this thing around."

And Wilf is committed to trying to turn the Vikings' season around -- with Tice as his coach.

"Our coaching situation is something we'll discuss at the end of the year," Wilf told the Star Tribune. "Right now, all we're trying to address is how we're going to win our division. We're getting together over the weekend partly for that purpose. We have had plans to have a lot of discussion relating to our long-term goals as an organization, but we're also going to talk about how we can improve the team right now. We're all working together on that."

A big reason for the Vikings' struggles has been the play of Culpepper, who has thrown just four touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in four games, a year removed from tossing 39 touchdown passes with just 11 interceptions. Culpepper revealed that he has been playing with a sprained medial collateral ligament and bursitis in his right knee this week.

And Moss, who had been the Vikings' most dangerous offensive weapon in seasons past, was traded to the Raiders in the offseason, leaving Culpepper without his favorite target.

Tice has a 24-29 record as the Vikings' head coach and led Minnesota to a 1-1 mark in the 2004 playoffs.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.