Vikings hire Tice to replace Green

Thursday, January 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minnesota (AP) _ Mike Tice took over as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, pledging a quick return to success.

The Vikings, who reached the NFC championship game last season but fell to 5-11 this year, have ``a very good nucleus'' and can turn things around with just a few changes, Tice said.

``You're only one or two players away, as Chicago has proven this year, from changing things,'' said Tice, who was the offensive line coach until Dennis Green was forced out last week.

Green was replaced in part because of the perception he had lost control of some of his players, including wide receiver Randy Moss, who had said that he plays hard when he feels like it.

Tice didn't evade any questions about that, saying he has expectations for every player and Moss is no different. Tice, who is popular with the players, joked that his goal was to make every player cry once during the season.

``I love to work hard,'' Tice said. ``I don't think there are many people that are going to outwork me, and I'm going to demand the same of my staff and players.''

Tice was loose and confident at the news conference to announce his hiring, joking freely with owner Red McCombs, who participated by speakerphone from San Antonio. While he wanted to be an NFL head coach, he said, he wasn't ready for it to happen ``the way it went down.'' He said he hadn't talked with Green since he was dismissed.

``The enjoyment factor is probably not as large over the past week because of the way it happened, but right now, it's all butterflies and I want to scream and yell and say 'whoopie!''' Tice said.

He made it clear he was in command in small ways _ politely telling a reporter, twice, to turn off his cell phone _ and in bigger ways. He declared he would immediately move fullback Jim Kleinsasser to tight end and said he would examine the play calling to figure out why tailback Michael Bennett, the team's first-round pick, didn't have a better season.

Tice led the Vikings in their final game Monday, a 19-3 loss at Baltimore that capped the season.

Tice met with McCombs the following day to talk about operational issues and a restructuring and told four assistants that day that they wouldn't be retained.

Some free agents said his hiring would be a reason to re-sign.

``He's a guy everyone respects,'' tight end Byron Chamberlain said Tuesday. ``Not just the offensive linemen, but everyone. The way he prepares himself and the preparation he puts in is incredible.''

The Vikings were hit hard before the season began by the death of Pro Bowl tackle Korey Stringer after he suffered heatstroke in training camp. The team never recovered, stumbling to its worst record since 1984 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995.

Green took a buyout of the two years left on his contract with one game left. But McCombs said the team's poor record wasn't the reason for making the decision, instead alluding to the perception that Green had lost control of his team.

TV cameras caught several sideline arguments involving players this season and Green was criticized for appearing to tolerate a poor attitude by Moss. Green's relationship with star receiver Cris Carter also cooled, partly because of the way Green handled Moss. Carter has strongly hinted that he will not play for Minnesota next season.