EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- Mike Tice took firm control of the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, shaking up his staff amid a report that he would hire disgraced coach George O'Leary as an assistant.
In his first day as head coach, Tice dismissed a fifth assistant, challenged his starting quarterback to get better, and promised that none of his players would loaf.
And the St. Paul Pioneer Press, citing team sources, reported on its Web site that Tice plans to make O'Leary his defensive line coach.
O'Leary, who quit five days after being hired as Notre Dame coach when he was found to have lied on his resume, declined Thursday to confirm the report in an interview with The Associated Press.
Pressed on whether he was discussing a job with Tice, O'Leary said: ''I've spoken to Michael, but I have not done anything at all with Minnesota.''
He said he expected to talk to Tice again.
''I'm going to listen to some people,'' O'Leary said. ''Mike's one of the ones I want to talk to.''
Tice didn't mention O'Leary at a news conference to introduce him as the replacement for Dennis Green, and he wasn't available to reporters later in the day.
Tice pledged a quick return to success for the Vikings after a 5-11 season. He spoke sternly, confidently and candidly about his vision for the team in a manner rarely shown by his predecessor.
''This season was no fun for me,'' Tice said. ''I want to have fun.''
Green was ousted last week, agreeing with owner Red McCombs on a buyout of the two years left on his contract. McCombs alluded to the perception that Green had lost control of the team as one of the reasons for the change.
Star wide receiver Randy Moss was a large part of that issue. He had his least productive season, was fined several times by the league and the team, and said twice that he only plays hard when he wants to.
Tice, whose tough but fair demeanor has drawn the respect of the Vikings in his five seasons as offensive line coach, made it clear that no one will be loafing.
''I love to work hard,'' Tice said. ''I don't think there are many people who are going to outwork me, and I'm going to demand the same of my staff and players.''
The staff will have a decidedly different look in 2002. Four assistants, including offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis and defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas, learned Tuesday they won't be returning, and outside linebackers coach Trent Walters left for a job at Notre Dame.
Special teams coach Gary Zauner was let go Thursday. Tice offered the defensive coordinator position to defensive backs coach Willie Shaw, who is expected to accept it.
Tice couldn't discuss his choices for an offensive coordinator, because most of them are with teams in the playoffs. Whoever it is will have to get Moss more involved in the offense. He had 10 touchdowns and 1,233 yards this year -- both career lows.
''We have to increase the ratio of touches that Randy Moss has,'' Tice said. ''That ratio has to improve. It is not good enough.''
Tice also said he'll move fullback Jim Kleinsasser to his natural tight end position and challenged quarterback Daunte Culpepper to become a better student.
''The No. 1 film watcher on your team should be the quarterback,'' Tice said. ''Daunte needs to do a better job of preparing himself so that he knows the game plan as well as the coach does. Daunte Culpepper might be the best athlete at quarterback in the entire league. What he has to become is a better quarterback.''
The Vikings were reeling even before the season began when Pro Bowl tackle Korey Stringer died of heatstroke in training camp. They never recovered, stumbling to their worst record since 1984 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
Cameras caught several sideline arguments involving players this season and Green was criticized for appearing to tolerate a poor attitude by Moss. Green's relationship with star receiver Cris Carter also cooled, partly because of the way Green handled Moss. Carter has strongly hinted that he will not play for Minnesota next season.
With Moss and Culpepper, Tice was confident the Vikings still had enough talent to return to the playoffs.
''You're only one or two players away, as Chicago has proven this year, from changing things,'' said Tice, referring to the NFC Central champion Bears, who went from 5-11 in 2000 to 13-3 this year.
Tice, who coached the Vikings in their final game Monday, a 19-3 loss at Baltimore, was loose and wry. He joked freely with McCombs, who participated by speakerphone from San Antonio. And he was playfully chided by his son for being tough on his seventh-grade team.
''He yells a lot,'' said Nate, 12.
The players are happy with the choice. Tice has received much of the credit for turning center Matt Birk from a fourth-round draft pick from Harvard into a two-time Pro Bowl player.
''Obviously I'm very happy for him,'' Birk said. ''Working under him for the last four years, seeing how hard he works and how hard he prepares. He's been like the one coach on the staff that any player felt like they could go talk to. He told the truth, and he won't sugarcoat it for everyone.''
Running back Michael Bennett, who sobbed in the locker room last week after learning Green was gone, showed up at Tice's news conference.
''A couple of days ago, I was upset,'' Bennett said. ''But this kind of relieves a lot of the tension for me. I think he epitomizes what our program is all about.''
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