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Vikings secondary rebuilding its reputation

Pro Bowl pick for Chavous is symbolic victory for team

By Dave Campbell

Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For all the ridicule the Minnesota Vikings' secondary has endured since the century turned, getting one of its own picked as a Pro Bowler was a sweet reward.

Strong safety Corey Chavous, who is third in the NFL with eight interceptions, was named to the NFC squad last week.

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"We were ecstatic," said teammate Brian Russell, whose nine interceptions are tied with San Francisco's Tony Parrish for the league lead.

"That is a big honor to have a guy from our secondary go," Russell said. "We're going to take him out and celebrate when the time is right after the season and make sure he enjoys it. ... Nobody is more deserving."

To say, in recent seasons, that a Vikings defensive back deserved to go to the Pro Bowl would be nothing but pure sarcasm. Salary-cap related moves and a general neglect of the defense by former coach Dennis Green let Minnesota's secondary deteriorate into one of the worst around.

Last year, the Vikings pass defense allowed an average of 256.4 yards passing per game -- fourth-to-last in the league.

The free-agent additions of cornerbacks Ken Irvin and Denard Walker, the improvement of second-year cornerback Brian Williams, the unexpected rise of Russell at free safety and the leadership of Chavous have helped Minnesota's secondary perform quite respectably in 2003.

The Vikings are still 26th in the NFL against the pass, but they're even with New England for the league lead in interceptions with 27.

"I know we have had our ups and downs, but this is a new unit," Russell said. "So far, we have been pretty successful with this group."

It starts with Chavous, who left Arizona as a free agent and signed with the Vikings in March 2002 as a cornerback. After nine games there, coach Mike Tice and then-defensive coordinator Willie Shaw decided Chavous was a better fit at safety.

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