There were snapshots Sunday that foretold the immediate future of the Vikings' quarterback situation. These scenes were available in the first hour after the Purple had defeated New Orleans 31-24.
Brad Johnson, still in game pants, came walking down a corridor in the Metrodome basement. Already, an X-ray had been taken of his right thumb, and Johnson knew it was broken. He was ashen and silent as he made his way through the media types to the home locker room.
A half-hour later, Randall Cunningham, looking elegant in a suit and leather coat, climbed the 30 steps from the Dome's basement to street level with only a slight limp.
Out in the parking lot, Jay Fiedler was with a group of Vikings and their families, sipping on a Corona and smiling at the conversation.
By Monday, the outward appearances had not changed much:
Johnson was wearing a purple-painted cast on his right hand and dealing with the somber news he was gone for another month, minimum. Cunningham was walking with little indication of discomfort after having two particles plucked from his knee in a one-hour arthroscopic procedure.
And Fiedler? He still was smiling, not at the continuing misfortunes of Johnson and Cunningham, but at the probability he will make his first NFL start Sunday against Cincinnati.
Coach Dennis Green called Cunningham 'questionable' and said he would not shy from using him Sunday, even though the lowly Bengals will be followed to town by Green Bay.
With Green being so emphatic in saying this to the media, that makes the following almost a certainty: - Fiedler will start, and the Vikings will concentrate on running the ball against a Cincinnati defense that rates 30th overall and 30th against the rush. - Cunningham will be listed as the second quarterback and will play only if the Vikings are in trouble, since Green wants to make sure Randall will be available to again drop bombs over Green Bay's too-short secondary.
'We're excited here,' Roger Hughes said. 'We feel the only thing Jay Fiedler has lacked in being an NFL quarterback is the opportunity to play.'
Hughes is the offensive coordinator at Dartmouth. Fiedler was his quarterback in an Ivy League championship season of 1992 and again in 1993. Fiedler won the Bushnell Award as the league's MVP in 1992 and was the all-Ivy quarterback in 1993.
'Jay was a decathlete in track and could outrun our receivers,' Hughes said. 'He was throwing to a bunch of 5.2 [seconds for 40 yards] guys, but he moved around and threw the ball well enough to make them look pretty good.'
Hughes did not hesitate when asked if there was a moment that he recalled from Fiedler's career.
'We were trailing Harvard by four, five points in Jay's senior season,' Hughes said. 'It was fourth-and-10 late in the game. If we didn't make it, we lost the game.
'Harvard blitzed and their guys were right on top of Jay. He took off right. Jay was on the dead run when he threw the ball back left and hit the receiver - Dave Scherer - for the first down.
'It was the best play I've ever seen a quarterback make. His arm is not a gun, but it's good enough to make plays at any level.
'Yes, this is the Ivy League and there aren't pro prospects at all positions. But there are a half-dozen players who wind up with NFL teams in most seasons. We see a few standout athletes every year in this league, and Jay was one of them.'
Fiedler was signed by Philadelphia and spent two seasons as an unused quarterback. He was briefly with Cincinnati in 1996. He coached receivers at Hofstra in 1997, then was signed by the Vikings to compete with Todd Bouman for the third quarterback spot in this season's training camp.
The Vikings chose Bouman. Monday, a Vikings veteran said many players were surprised by that decision, because Fiedler had clearly outplayed Bouman in the exhibitions.
Green repeated Monday that Bouman was kept when the third quarterback was looked at as a developmental spot on the roster - and Fiedler was retrieved from Hofstra as soon as Johnson was hurt in the season's second game.
Back in Hanover, N.H., Dartmouth's Hughes has taken sizable interest in the minor drama surrounding Fiedler and Bouman.
'Is it a small world or what?' Hughes said. 'I coached Jay here, and Bouman's father, J.B., was my high school coach in Crawford, Nebraska.'
The minor drama has turned into something more than that for the Vikings in the 11th week of the NFL season. Fiedler will make his first NFL start. And, if Cunningham's knee would prove more balky than expected, the untested Bouman would be No. 2 vs. Cincinnati.
'The Vikings don't have to worry about going with Jay this week,' Hughes said. 'He's talented enough to play, and he's definitely smart enough. He graduated from Dartmouth in 3 1/2 years with an engineering degree.
'Jay might be inexperienced, but I guarantee the Vikings aren't going to have to limit the offense because he can't grasp it.'