Vikings happy to be in South Florida, even a week early

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Going through non-padded, walk-through practices at the Pro Bowl this week with their peers has made this sooner-than-desired trip to South Florida palatable for Minnesota Vikings all-stars Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson, Heath Farwell and Steve Hutchison.

Though each has been having a good time, being at the site of the Super Bowl is like being bumped to a middle seat in coach, allowing another passenger to take your spot in first class. After that passenger repeatedly hit, sacked and bruised you in the check-in line, of course.

"It's disappointing," said Hutchison, who is playing in his seventh Pro Bowl. "Every team starts the year with the Super Bowl as their goal. When you fall short at the end like we did, when you're a couple seconds away from potentially being able to go and play next week down here, it's tough. But that's the way it goes."

Of the nine Vikings selected or added to the Pro Bowl roster, Peterson, Allen, Hutchison and Farwell, a special teams ace, were the only ones who opted to participate. Even though they were physically nicked and mentally reeling, especially Peterson, who fumbled twice in Minnesota's 31-28 overtime conference championship loss to New Orleans last Sunday.

Lamenting over the loss has been eased by seeing fans here still worship them despite the defeat and by spending time with sick children who wished they had the strength and health to simply be able to hold a football long enough to fumble it.

That said, the loss is still too fresh for them to begin lobbying quarterback Brett Favre to return or to look too far toward next season, Hutchison said. The Vikings were just a field-goal try away from reaching the Super Bowl, before a last-minute penalty for having 12 men on the field took them out of kicker Ryan Longwell's range and Favre threw an errant interception to Tracy Porter.

Walking onto the field Sunday -- and also interacting with some Super Bowl participants, like Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Saints quarterback Drew Brees -- probably won't make things much easier.

Maybe looking forward to next season isn't such a bad thing.

"You always hear people talk about the curse -- the team makes it deep in the playoffs doesn't make it back the next year," Hutchison said. "We'll have to go into the offseason and training camp and pick up where we left off. Make sure we don't have any hangover that we lost that game. Most of the guys should be coming back. It will pretty much be the same team. We shouldn't have any excuses."

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