Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Close the books. It's over. It's official. After 13 seasons, Brian Urlacher has retired. Called it quits. Hung it up. He did so this morning, releasing a statement through his Twitter account. Here it is:
And so that's that, folks. There will be no Brian Urlacher sightings at Winter Park. He will not wear purple.
Urlacher never made much sense as the Vikings' 2013 option at middle linebacker. Sure, there were rumors early on in free agency that the Vikings were keeping a pulse on Urlacher's situation. Yet when the star linebacker's negotiations with Chicago, where he was a standout starter since 2000, fell through, the Vikings didn't exactly hold a party to pool funds together in a hurried effort to sign him.
We tried to tell you the reasons why. Urlacher will turn 35 this coming Saturday. He missed the final four games of 2012 with a hamstring problem. His burst and explosion isn't what it once was. And, at best, he would have been a one-season Band-Aid on the position for the Vikings, who are far more determined these days to seek out long-term answers, looking to identify and develop quality players as opposed to pulling old ones off the free agency scrap heap.
So, yeah. Even with the Vikings' holes at the position, we never took the Urlacher chatter very seriously.
Still, that didn't stop the "Urlacher could soon be a Viking" rumors from swirling off and on for more than two months.
And last week, when a Chicago Sun-Times gossip columnist cited an anonymous source close to Urlacher saying that the linebacker might soon be a Viking, reckless bloggers ran wild with the unsubstantiated rumor. (Why wouldn't they? In today's world of journalism -- especially in the NFL -- sexy headlines and Web clicks have begun to take on far greater value than, well, ya know, actual truth.)
Not long after last week's Urlacher chatter escalated, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier appeared on the NFL Network and said his team wasn't considering the longtime Bears star as an option at middle linebacker, instead intending to give Erin Henderson a look there -- maybe Audie Cole and Tyrone McKenzie too -- while also figuring out the potential roles for rookies Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti.
Yet even with Frazier's assertions, too many folks clung to the fact that Frazier said Urlacher wasn't an option "at this point," three words that allowed folks to run wild with their imaginations and created another rush for stories across the internet.
Even today, with Urlacher announcing his retirement in no uncertain terms, the conspiracy theorists are already forecasting an Favre-esque return to pro football from Urlacher later this summer. Go wild with that theory if you want. Us? We're burying the story.
Repeat it with us five times: Urlacher is retired and won't be a Viking. Urlacher is retired and won't be a Viking. Urlacher is retired and won't be a Viking. Urlacher is retired and won't be a Viking. Urlacher is retired and won't be a Viking.
That felt good didn't it?
Proposed new league year would start before combine in 2015 and 2016. Change of draft to May effective in 2014.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 20, 2013
Chris Kluwe, who holds several Vikings punting records but was more noted for the controversy surrounding his final season, said he will sign with the Oakland Raiders today.
The news was broken by former Baltimore Raven running back Brendon Ayanbedejo, who writes for foxsports.com.
Both Ayanbedejo and Kluwe were outspoken in their support for same-sex marriage during the past season.
Kluwe also championed the cause of former Raiders punter Ray Guy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was fined by the league for wearing a patch stating that support.
The Raiders lost All-Pro punter Shane Lechler, who signed with Houston during the offseason. Kluwe was released by the Vikings after they drafted UCLA's Jeff Locke. Kluwe said he will get a one-year contract with Oakland for the league minimum.
“I’m excited to be an Oakland Raider and be playing in California," Kluwe, who also punted at UCLA, told Ayanbedejo. “Now, my family can actually come to games.”
Kluwe, 31, holds the Vikings record for average yards per punt in a career (44.4). He said the Cleveland Browns were also interested in signing him.
The Vikings signed three more draft picks Wednesday.
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