Sports Illustrated says Tice stays in '05
Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
October 27, 2004


If Vikings owner Red McCombs has decided to retain coach Mike Tice beyond this season, it's news to virtually every team employee -- including Tice.

In a Sports Illustrated story to be published later this week, McCombs is quoted as saying he will pick up Tice's 2005 option and then discuss the parameters of a long-term extension.

"If he [loses the rest of his games]," the magazine quotes McCombs, "I'm still going to exercise the option. Mike is going to stay with me as long as he wants to."

McCombs, however, has not shared the news with anyone at Winter Park, and he could not be reached Tuesday to verify the magazine's report.

In a statement released Tuesday night, Tice said he has not talked to McCombs about the issue. Tice is in the final guaranteed season of his original three-year contract, which pays him $750,000 this season.

"I do not discuss my contract with Red," Tice said. "I have a job to do and goals to reach."

Danny More, Tice's agent, declined comment when reached Tuesday.

McCombs has said repeatedly he would not discuss the contract issue -- with Tice or the media -- until after the season. A handful of team officials contacted Tuesday night said McCombs has given no indication he has even considered exercising Tice's option.

The magazine's report surfaced one day after McCombs questioned whether the Vikings' 2004 team is any better than the 2003 group that lost seven of its final 10 games and missed the playoffs. Because Tice finished a combined 15-17 in his first two full seasons, McCombs has insisted he would wait until the end of this season before deciding Tice's future. The option must be addressed in early January.

Exercising the option by itself, without an accompanying extension, would do little to settle Tice's long-term future. By picking up the $1 million option, McCombs would continue to make Tice the lowest-paid coach in the NFL. Without an extension, Tice would be a coaching free agent after the 2005 season.

After Tice, the second-lowest paid coach is Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio, who makes $1.2 million. The average salary for a coach is $2.75 million.

Safety swap

For the past few weeks, the Vikings have employed a defensive scheme that calls for nickel back Terrance Shaw to replace one of the team's two starting safeties, Brian Russell and Corey Chavous, in certain situations.

Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said the alignment is not a reflection of the performance of either safety, but simply a variation of the nickel scheme.

Shaw has played cornerback and safety during his 10-year NFL career.

"It can be a matchup thing," Cottrell said. "Sometimes we'll put Terrance out there just for matchup purposes. Sometimes we'll put Brian out there. It just gives us one more thing that the offense has to look for."

Etc.

• Cottrell said rookie Dontarrious Thomas will continue to serve as the middle linebacker in nickel situations indefinitely. Thomas took on the role when starter E.J. Henderson sprained his right knee.

• Linebacker Mike Nattiel, who entered training camp challenging for the starting weak-side position, has been told to sharpen his performance or risk being released.