Attorneys for Minnesota Vikings kicker Donald Igwebuike took to the offensive yesterday, saying that although the player was questioned by federal agents investigating an alleged drug smuggling operation in Florida, he is being convicted prematurely in the media.

The Vikings also stood behind Igwebuike, who, according to team spokesman Merrill Swanson, worked out with the team and will play in Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers unless his situation changes or NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue intervenes. League spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is looking into the matter, but it had no further comment.

ABC News reported Tuesday night the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa has "irrefutable evidence" linking Igwebuike -- a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for five seasons until this year -- to an attempt to smuggle heroin into the United States from his native Nigeria.

U.S. Attorney Robert Genzman's office said yesterday it is handling an indictment against Maduwuba Ibekwe, a Nigerian who was arrested two weeks ago by customs agents at Orlando Airport after an examination reportedly found 31 small bags of heroin in his stomach.

But Genzman's office declined to comment on how, or if, Igwebuike allegedly was involved. Bonni Tischer, special agent in charge of U.S. Customs in north Florida, said she could neither confirm nor deny any allegations involving Igwebuike.

ABC quoted law enforcement officials as saying Igwebuike bought Ibekwe's plane ticket and was involved in telephone conversations that indicated he was aware of the smuggling operation.

Igwebuike has declined to comment, Swanson said. But Igwebuike's attorneys, Larry Reed and Herbert Igbanugo, said the evidence against Igwebuike is circumstantial. They said Igwebuike, who often sends money to his parents in Nigeria and has put his siblings through college in the United States, had contacted Ibekwe, a part-time teacher in Tampa, because he needed to rush $12,000 to his parents in Anambra, Nigeria.

Igwebuike's agent, Joe Senkovich, said Igwebuike's brother, Valentine, a college student in the United States, had spoken with their parents in Nigeria and confirmed they had received the money, which Senkovich said they needed because they are building a house.

When Ibekwe was arrested, he had a receipt for $12,000 on his person as well as the heroin, officials said.

"Our client was contacted by the authorities, who are taking a look at certain individuals that our client knew," Reed told the Associated Press. "These individuals got into trouble. Donald was questioned by the authorities about those individuals. We understand the other individuals have been charged with offenses. Our client has not. . . . They {the authorities} must not have irrefutable evidence or our client would have been charged."

Igwebuike was interviewed by a customs agent from Tampa last week, Reed said.

"He {Igwebuike} cooperated," Reed said. "He said, yes, he knew him {Ibekwe}. . . . I saw their files and there was no mention of Donald anywhere in there. They referred to a tape of a conversation in Edo language. I had someone listen to it and was told there was no mention of any activity in which Donald was involved."

Edo is spoken in southern Nigeria.

Vikings Coach Jerry Burns expressed his support for Igwebuike.

"I've got confidence everything will be okay," he said during a teleconference with reporters covering the Packers. He later told reporters at the Vikings' practice facility in Eden Prairie, Minn.: "I like Iggy and as far as I'm concerned, until proven otherwise, he has not committed any crime. He's our guy and I'll stick by him."

Senkovich said when Igwebuike first informed him of the situation late Monday "he was laughing, saying, 'This is ridiculous. I didn't do anything wrong.' " But Senkovich said by Tuesday night, when the story broke, "he was upset. He's upset because he's worried they're going to smear his name. He feels this is guilt by association."