Tice says McKinnie could play against Chargers
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- After two home losses, the road just might be what the Minnesota Vikings need.
That and a grass surface.
"I think it's a good thing right now," coach Mike Tice said about the Vikings' upcoming road game at San Diego.
"The three-game home streak was not a good thing. I think there was so much going on, so many people in town. It just added to the list of distractions for our team."
Distractions like arranging tickets for family members and having too much time away from teammates.
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper said the team looks at the game as a "business trip."
"The distractions will be down because a lot of people won't have to deal with their families coming in town for the game," he said.
Tice also said the Metrodome turf has been hard on the players' bodies. The team has also been practicing in its indoor facility, which also has artificial turf, because of chilly temperatures outside.
"You talk to guys like Matt Birk," Tice said. "His body didn't recover after the Giants game and how do you think he feels now after playing another game on it. It's really tough."
After San Diego, the Vikings will head back to California to play the Oakland Raiders.
^KLEINSASSER'S ROLE:@ Vikings coaches are trying to expand the role of tight end Jim Kleinsasser in the passing game now that he's healthier.
Kleinsasser, who has made a name for himself as one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, has been nagged by plantar fasciitis, a very painful foot injury, since the preseason.
"He's got his legs," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "I don't think that foot is giving him problems anymore. His role is going to continue to increase."
Kleinsasser has 12 catches for 110 yards and three TDs this season. He's averaging 9.2 yards per catch.
^INJURIES:@ Left tackle Bryant McKinnie sat out practice on Wednesday with his high ankle sprain, but coach Mike Tice didn't rule out his mammoth offensive lineman playing Sunday at San Diego.
McKinnie, who was hurt last week against Green Bay, was listed as questionable on the injury report.
"But I don't think it's very questionable," Tice said. "I think there's a chance he could play."
If McKinnie, all 346 pounds of him, doesn't play, Everett Lindsay will fill his spot. Culpepper said the switch wouldn't affect preparations for the Chargers.
"I have all the confidence in the world in Everett Lindsay," Culpepper said. "He is a tough guy, one of the tougher guys on the team."
In other injuries, Tice said linebacker Raonall Smith is about a week away from returning from a strained hamstring.
Andres Ybarra can be reached at aybarra(at)ap.org.
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