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Vikes May Stick By George

Randall Cunningham's refusal to renegotiate his deal with the Vikings might open the door for Jeff George's return to Minnesota.

Rob Brzezinksi, the team's director of football administration, told George's agent, Leigh Steinberg, that coach Dennis Green will soon contact him to discuss the situation.

Green had earlier told Steinberg to seek offers from other teams.

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"Rob indicated that at some point Denny will be calling," Steinberg said. "We have not charged into free agency because Jeff's desire is to remain in Minnesota. We're hoping that the situation may change in Minneapolis and they'll find some cap room somewhere so he can return. We're in a wait-and-see mode."

George went 9-3 after replacing Cunningham as the team's starter. Cunningham was benched just 5 1/2 games into his new $28 million contract.

Cunningham's refusal to take a pay cut from $2.2 million in 2000 to $1 million or less has put the Vikings in a quandary.

He is due a roster bonus of $1 million on March 1, but if they waive him before then to avoid paying him the bonus, he'll count $3.3 million against the Vikings' cap next season.

They could jettison him after June 1 and only take an $833,000 cap hit, but that would mean they'd have to pay $1 million next week to a player they have no intention of keeping.

Several players on the Vikings, who have severe salary cap problems, have restructured their deals, including Cris Carter and Robert Smith, taking non-guaranteed base pay in latter years of their contracts and converting it to guaranteed bonus money, even if it's deferred.

But Cunningham has insisted he's going to "honor the contract they gave me," and realizes his stance may cost him his roster spot in Minnesota.

The Vikings have already parted with several veterans, including Pro Bowl linemen Jeff Christy and Randall McDaniel, tight end Andrew Glover and receiver Jake Reed.

Short-yardage running back Leroy Hoard told the Star Tribune that he's not wanted back, either.

"They told my agent right before the Feb. 11 deadline that they are not going to offer me a contract," Hoard said.

Hoard rushed for 558 yards and 10 touchdowns in 1999.

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