Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice will return for at least one more season, and nothing short of a lucrative contract extension could make him happier. Despite a second straight...

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice will return for at least one more season, and nothing short of a lucrative contract extension could make him happier.


Despite a second straight late-season slide, the Vikings yesterday picked up Tice’s $1 million option for 2005, ending much speculation about the coach’s future.


“I’m pleased,” said Tice, a former Seahawks tight end. “I want to remain the football coach of this football team because we’ve come a long way in three years.”


Tice would have become a free agent Jan. 31 if the Vikings failed to exercise the option by Saturday — one day before Minnesota’s regular-season finale at Washington.


Instead, the 45-year-old coach will have a chance to improve his 23-25 record and reverse his team’s reputation for fading down the stretch.


The Vikings (8-7) have lost six of their past nine games, but still have a good shot at a wild-card berth.


“Although our expectation of winning the division was not met, we feel that the program Mike Tice has guided gives us the talent base to have success today and in the future,” owner Red McCombs said in a statement. “Our expectations are high for the upcoming playoffs and for next year.”


Despite a raise from his reported $750,000 salary this season, Tice will remain one of the league’s lowest-paid head coaches.


Tice is focused on taking the Vikings back to the playoffs.


“We just keep fighting the fight,” he said. “Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, you’ve accomplished a whole bunch.”


Preliminary report: White had lung ailment


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Reggie White, considered one of the greatest defensive linemen in league history, might have died because of a respiratory disease combined with other health problems, a preliminary autopsy report said yesterday.


White most likely had a condition that affected the amount of air his lungs could hold, resulting in “fatal cardiac arrhythmia,” said Dr. Mike Sullivan, the medical examiner for Mecklenburg County and a forensic pathologist.


The report issued by Sullivan’s office also said sleep apnea might have been a factor. The report is a preliminary one; determining a final cause of death for White, 43, could take up to three months, Sullivan’s office said.


White died Sunday at Presbyterian Hospital in Huntersville after being taken there from his home in nearby Cornelius. White had the disease, known as sarcoidosis, for several years, family spokesman Keith Johnson said Sunday.


On its Web site, the American Lung Association describes sarcoidosis as a disease characterized by the presence of small areas of inflamed cells that can attack any organ of the body but is most frequently found in the lungs.


White was elected to the Pro Bowl a record 13 straight times from 1986 to 1998. He played for Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina in his 15-season career.




Notes


* Denver defensive tackle Trevor Pryce said he will be back in the lineup for the season finale against Indianapolis after missing every game since the opener. Pryce had back surgery shortly after the first game.


* Defensive end John Abraham of the New York Jets probably will miss the regular-season finale against St. Louis because of a sprained knee ligament.


Though coach Herman Edwards said Abraham might be listed as questionable, Abraham said there would be no point in playing because he is not at full speed. “We’re not playing chess or something where my health doesn’t matter,” Abraham said. “I need to be 100 percent, or at least 85 or 90 percent.”


* The Chicago Bears continue to insist Bernard Berrian made a catch that could have given them a win over Detroit on Sunday.


Officials nullified Berrian’s apparent 43-yard, game-tying touchdown reception with 1:26 left, calling it an incomplete pass even though replays indicated it was a good catch. The Bears lost 19-13.


“I saw, and with my great vision that I have, two feet in with possession as he went down,” Chicago coach Lovie Smith said.


* Running back Chris Perry, a first-round draft pick from Michigan who gained 1 yard for the Cincinnati Bengals, will have surgery to repair a hernia that kept him off the field for much of his rookie season.


Perry won’t play in Sunday’s game in Philadelphia.


* Ben Coates, a former Pro Bowl tight end, was hired as coach at Division II Livingstone College — his alma mater — in Salisbury, N.C.


The 35-year-old Coates, who has been an assistant coach with the Blue Bears since 2001, replaces George Johnson Jr., who went 8-22 in three seasons (2-8 this year).