FELDY: So a colleague just informed me today that high school girls hockey practice starts a week from today. I love hockey season, but, geez, it's already time for winter sports? I guess, we did have snow yesterday. Yuck. ...
Once again, the Vikings have proved that they are the only NFL team that can find a way to lose on its bye week. This time it wasn't a boat, it was the announcement that Pat and Kevin Williams will likely be suspended for four games for using water pills, a supplement that helps users shed water weight. It's also used as a steroid-masking agent. The Star Tribune's Mark Craig points out that the leaking of the players names involved in this might be the worst violation of the NFL's substance use/abuse policies. It's going to make the appeals process more difficult for the Williams' and other players named. They're already guilty in the court of public opinion. But, hey, if they used the pills, they should be suspended. As a pro athlete, you have to know that anything you put in your body is OK by league standards.
* WHO FILLS IN (should the Vikes go to a 3-4?): The question now becomes, what in the world do the Vikes do for four games while the Williams' sit? Obviously Fred Evans becomes an every-down player, but who lines up next to him inside? Ellis Wyms? Otis Grigsby? Those guys do anything for ya, Vikes fans? ... Me neither. One report I read said Brian Robison could see time lined up inside, though I don't see how that would be effective. Robison is about 260 pounds, barely bigger than a linebacker. He's a situational pass rusher at his best, a servicable every-down end if necessary. ... One option fellow P-B scribe Guy Limbeck and I kicked around last night was the Vikes going to a 3-4 defensive scheme, with Evans in the middle and Jared Allen and Ray Edwards/Robison at the ends. The problem in that scenario is it likely means both Napoleon Harris and Dontarrious Thomas/David Herron (when he gets healthy) have to be on the field at the same time. Either way, there doesn't seem to be a legitimate solution. ... All of this doesn't even factor in the now-lack-of-depth the Vikes have in the front 7. If anyone else gets hurt on the line or at linebacker ... yikes.
* GOPHERS SMELLING ROSES?: OK, it's still way too early for Rose Bowl talk, but I know Phersy thinks the Gophs are on the way to Pasadena, or at worst a New Year's Day bowl. The Gophs' 17-6 win over Purdue on Saturday wasn't pretty, but -- guess what? -- it's a game they would not have won last season. If you didn't see it already, Minnesota is 17th in the BCS rankings this week. Quite a step up for a team that had the worst defense in the country last year. The folks who run the bowl game in Nashville are probably hoping the Gophers lose the rest of their games, so they can have T-Brew and Co. come to their home away from home.
* GOPHERS HOCKEY: Umm, look out, WCHA, the Gophers are back. That pains both Phersy and I to say, but we both can see it. The Gophers aren't the team they've been the past couple of years. They have a legitimate No. 1 goalie, they have freshmen playing up to their hype, and they have a valuable weapon back from injury in Ryan Stoa. The Gophs took three points from 'Sconnie over the weekend at Madison. That's good news for my Sioux, who host the reeling Badgers this weekend; maybe not good news for Phersy's MSU Mavericks, who face the red-hot Gophers.
* KANGAS, HAS HE EVER BEEN NERVOUS?: The Star Tribune's Roman Augustoviz had a great article on Rochester's Alex Kangas, the Gophers' starting goalie, on Friday. He also had this entry in his blog, which lets us know that the only time Kangas has shown nerves on the ice is when he was on an icy Interstate Highway.