Claiborne Homecoming Bittersweet

Today's meeting with the Lions will be a bittersweet homecoming for Chris Claiborne. It was the place he got his NFL start, but also the site of many personal and professional heartbreaks.

A year ago this week, Lions General Manager Matt Millen made a not-so-veiled reference to Chris Claiborne, saying he didn't have a lot of heart on the field. That comment came as a slap in the face to Claiborne, who had suffered four years in Detroit.

Not only had Claiborne suffered through some Lions teams that he felt quit on each other and simply played for personal numbers to get their next big contract, he also lost his father in Detroit. Claiborne's dad was shot and killed outside a Detroit nightclub, which added to his pain about how his career had turned since being drafted early in the first round in the 1999 draft.

So, when the Lions balked at re-signing Claiborne, he was more than happy to make the jump to division rival Minnesota. He has told VU on several occasions that he has never been around a pro team that works so hard and so well together -- players working for the good of a unit as opposed to working hard to make themselves look better.

When the Vikings plane touched down in Detroit Saturday, it was Claiborne's first return to Detroit since signing with the Vikings. He told VU that he won't be surprised if he is booed loudly by fans, but added, "the better I play the more boos I'll hear. I want to hear a lot of boos."

SUNDAY NOTES
* From the Sister Mary Elephant "Shut Up Class!" Department comes this: Don't look for Michael Bennett or Doug Chapman on the Vikings sideline today. Both players were told Friday by Mike Tice that they wouldn't be making the trip to Detroit. Why? Because neither player was paying sufficient attention Friday at practice. Neither Tice nor the disciplined players discussed the matter with media.
* In hopes of getting a better feel for the field turf in Detroit, the Vikings practiced at the University of Minnesota Friday.
* Word is circulating that, barring an impressive showing when he returns to the team a week from Monday, TE Byron Chamberlain will be on the bubble to remain with the team. Unlike other players who are under contract for Week 1, because Chamberlain was suspended, he can be released without the team picking up the remainder of his 2003 salary if he is released before the first game of the year -- which for Chamberlain is Week 5 vs. the 49ers. While VU isn't convinced that this is a Tice bluster tactic to assure Chamberlain is in his best possible shape, it sends another message to players that nobody is safe on the roster if they get in the coach's doghouse.

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