TESTING THE WATER: Dolphins WR Mark Clayton, sidelined with a knee injury since Nov. 11, worked out yesterday and will resume practicing in pads Wednesday, Coach Don Shula said.

"He appears to be running pretty close to normal," Shula said. "If he has a good week of working in pads and he doesn't aggravate the problem, then he'll be activated for the game."

Less likely is the return of FB Tony Paige, who has seen little action since Nov. 11 because of knee and ankle injuries. Paige will see a doctor Wednesday. Veteran Miami DB Liffort Hobley, captain of the special teams, suffered ligament damage to his left knee in Sunday's 24-17 win over Seattle and may be out for the season.

HE MIGHT RETURN: If the Minnesota Vikings will have him -- and it appears they will -- Jerry Burns will be back as coach next season. Though it may not end speculation that Notre Dame's Lou Holtz will coach Minnesota next year, Burns said he wants to return for his sixth season as head coach and 24th with the organization.

The Vikings (6-8), on the brink of playoff elimination, are guaranteed their first nonwinning season under Burns, at 63 the NFL's oldest coach. Burns also said quarterback Wade Wilson will start Saturday against the Los Angeles Raiders, Wilson's first start since he tore ligaments in his right (passing) thumb Sept. 23.

NICE GAME: Pittsburgh QB Bubby Brister was kissed by a Louisiana TV news reporter after the Steelers' 9-6 victory at New Orleans Sunday.

Brister was talking to about 10 reporters when Shari Warren, a news reporter for KSLA in Shreveport, La., who attended Northeast Louisiana with Brister, asked the quarterback what he wanted for Christmas.

"I just want to keep winning for Christmas," Brister said. "Maybe you for a while. How about that?"

"You can have me for a while," Warren said.

About a minute later, while saying goodbye, Warren kissed Brister and left.

KSLA's weekend co-producer, Carl Pendley, said Brister and Warren have known each other for years, but the station's reporters usually don't thank interview subjects with kisses.

DREAM STATE: During Sunday's Houston-Kansas City game, the Chiefs' Todd McNair had an out-of-body experience.

McNair, a backup running back and full-time special teams operative, got sandwiched between two flying Oilers during a kickoff in the third quarter. He lay on the turf for several minutes before being led, albeit wobbly-legged, to the sideline.

"I was dreaming," he said. "I was back home in Jersey with my girl. I was waxing my car down, and then I was driving my car."

Several worried team officials huddled over McNair.

"They said I came off smiling and telling people I was going back in. But I don't remember any of that. I got to the sideline and I saw the players and the fans and I thought, 'Hey, I'm dreaming that I'm in a game,' " he said.

BUTTS INJURED: Marion Butts, whose 1,225 yards rushing leads the league, may miss the final two regular season games because of a strained foot, Chargers Coach Dan Henning said. Butts came up lame after the San Diego's 20-10 loss at Denver on Sunday. He gained 71 yards on 22 carries while setting a single-season team rushing mark, surpassing Earnest Jackson's 1,179 yards in 1984.

COWBOYS CUTS: Dallas waived G Tony Slaton and DL Mitch Willis.