Well, "the network" is more than just the NIC drivers. It also includes any network services you wish to start (inetd, ftpd, sshd, and on and on...).
So, yeah the network cards will be functional but if you have nothing served by them then the whole process ic quite academic.
To get the NICs to respond you need drivers (_.o) and configuration info. (IP, netmask, resolver for starters.) In that order.
If you want to test this b4 you burn, try creating a new partition and booting from a floppy using that partition as root. This way you can tune and config everything b4 you commit to a burn.