EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Bernard Berrian is ready for the boos. His ears have had plenty of practice.
After hearing restless Minnesota fans chant for the firing of coach Brad Childress at home last week, Berrian and the Vikings are busy preparing for their trip to Chicago to play the Bears for first place in the NFC North.
Berrian launched his career in Chicago, then left after four seasons as a free agent and signed a six-year contract with Minnesota for a staggering $16 million guaranteed and the chance to make as much as $42 million.
The Bears made him an offer to stay, but he said it wasn't close to what the Vikings gave. So he can expect to hear some not-so-friendly commentary coming from the crowd in the Windy City on Sunday.
``It's definitely going to be a tough game, hostile environment,'' Berrian said, adding: ``I can't wait.''
t hard-to-please Soldier Field environment gave Berrian a glimpse of what his new team is going through.
Minnesota's offense hasn't been consistent, or simply capable in some games, to fuel confidence for the fans - let alone lift the Vikings to the top of the NFC. Most players were quick to express disappointment in the boos and anti-Childress chants last week, especially since they came during a win over Detroit, but Berrian actually sounded close to apologetic for the offensive performance.
The Vikings (3-3) punted six times and lost a fumble on their seven first-half possessions in a 12-10 victory.
``I understand where they're coming from,'' Berrian said. ``When you get sloppy play, you're not playing to your potential. Then you're going to get boos. We had it in Chicago.''
With a ``quarterback carousel,'' as Berrian called it, the Bears similarly struggled to get their offense going and create much production from the passing game. Former teammate Muhsin Muhammad once declared Chicago the place where ``receivers go to die.''
After settling on Kyle Orton to take the snaps and establishing rookie Matt Forte as the featured running back, however, the Bears (3-3) have enjoyed greater success on offense this year.
Berrian is still waiting for a true breakout game, though last week was close.
to be patient,'' Berrian said, ``because sometimes they come in bunches and other times they don't.''
The Vikings' other starter, Bobby Wade, is also a former Bears receiver. He returned to Soldier Field for the first time last year, and coach Brad Childress asked Wade this week whether he wanted to ``have that talk'' with Berrian about maintaining a level head in light of the desire to prove one's worth to old friends.
``It's just a matter of not getting out of the box and not making it more than it is,'' Childress said. ``It's always fun to go back and compete against guys that you've competed with before and you know. Again, you want to do what you need to do within our system. Make the routine plays routinely, and all of the other stuff happens.''
After a slow start, Berrian has been doing just that - and begun to justify Minnesota's hefty investment.
Fighting a sore toe that bothered him throughout last season, he had only nine catches for 117 yards through the first three weeks. But in the last three games, Berrian has hauled in 16 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns. He's also been playing with a knee injury suffered in practice two weeks ago.
r receivers off the line and sent Berrian to the right slot position. He ran a crossing pattern, caught a medium-range pass from Gus Frerotte and ran all the way for an 86-yard score.
``He's fast. He's a deep threat. He is a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver. He just hasn't been one. He has that potential,'' said Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who had countless one-on-one matchups with Berrian in practice over the previous four years.
Tillman hurt his left shoulder last week, and his status for Sunday's game is in question. He didn't participate in Thursday's practice, and Berrian probably wouldn't mind seeing a backup lined up across from him on Sunday.
The Bears didn't begrudge his departure, but they certainly don't want that breakout game to come against them this weekend.
``He got a great deal there. We're happy whenever some of our guys get set up for life,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ``I know he's happy up there, so it worked out well for him.''
---
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Lake Forest, Ill., contributed to this report.

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