Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
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.
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said he gets nostalgic with 11-year veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams on how the NFL used to be when they started their careers.
Allen, in his 10th season in the league, said "hazing" has changed significantly since he started his career with the Chiefs in 2004 and feels the rite of passage message in having veterans establish the atmosphere in the locker room has been lost to a degree.
"From a player’s standpoint, I think some of the younger guys come in and there’s a sense of entitlement, and you lose that work ethic, you lose that true veteran-led locker room sometimes," Allen said. "You got to know who you’re dealing with. You can’t treat everyone the same. You can’t treat every rookie the same. Some guys are more sensitive than others, but it’s a sign of respect."
Allen said he knows Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who has been suspended by the team as the NFL reviews a harassment complaint from tackle Jonathan Martin, but he doesn't know the details of the situation in Miami. He said it's a terrible situation for Martin, Incognito and the team that's down two offensive linemen.
"Richie has a good heart, he really does," Allen said. "I know he's catching some heat right now, but from what I know of Richie, we've always had a good relationship. He's always been cool with my family. We have mutual friends, so it's a bad deal."
Reports on the hazing issues in Miami mention an instance where the rookies were stuck paying a $30,000 team dinner. Allen recalled during his rookie year driving 20 miles to pick up Popeyes chicken before every team flight with the Chiefs and has heard of first-round picks picking up $50,000-$60,000 tabs at the "rookie dinners" before the NFL implemented a rookie wage scale.
“It just depends on when you came in," Allen said. "Reasonable back in the day? Yeah. I mean, I’ve heard of worse. I’ve heard of less. It depends. That’s usually how it is. But usually it’s a rite of passage you go through, so as a rookie from a football standpoint you go through stuff and that’s what kind of brings you together as a team."
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has a policy against hazing with the players, and players have to tread lightly with a rookie.
"We do little things like, ‘Go get me coffee,’" Allen said. "Nothing too crazy, but I appreciate it going through that because I had the respect of the vets. Then when it’s your turn, you don’t feel so bad giving it to someone else."
Jared Allen said he watched his name being mentioned in rampant trade speculation on Tuesday. Ultimately, the Vikings did not trade him, but Allen said he's not bitter that he was on the trading block.
Allen said he had positive discussions with coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman after the deadline passed.
"I understand this business," he said. "There’s no hard feelings. I understand where we’re at in the season. As a matter of fact, I take it as a sign of respect that they still think I have value. But I’m excited to be a Viking. I really am. I’m excited to try to right this ship, and I’m all in."
Allen seemed upbeat Wednesday despite the uncertainty of whether he would be traded and the ugliness of a 44-31 loss to the Packers still fresh in his mind.
"Two things can happen when you lose like we did: You can either get in a hole, or you can get motivated," he said. "That was the worst defensive experience I’ve ever had in my career as a football player, to not make a team punt. For me, that’s embarrassing. I saw the coaches [and] said, ‘If there’s more I can do, let me know. Coach me harder. Coach me.’ I put it on my back, and we’ve got to turn this thing loose."
"When I made that comment, ‘This is the worst defense ive ever been on,’ it had nothing to do with the players, nothing to do with calls, nothing to do with any of that," he added. "We’re not performing. It has everything to do with performance, and that was the worst defensive performance I’d ever been a part of. That lies just as much on me as it does anybody else. That’s where my mindset’s at."
Allen was asked why he sounded so upbeat and fired up, given everything that has happened in recent weeks.
"We got our butt whooped," he said. "It’s embarrassing, I don’t like being embarrassed and I take ownership for it. I feel like I need to get better. When you hear all this stuff [about being traded], sometimes you don't realize how much you love what you've got until you feel like it's almost going to be taken away… I love the Vikings. I’ve put heart and soul into this place for six years. I want to win here. I love these fans here. We haven’t played good at home yet. We’ve gotten our butts kicked for three home games and they don’t deserve that. They support us on and off the field. I feel like we owe them more. I owe my teammates more, I owe my coaching staff more.
"The only way to motivate other guys, I’m not rah rah, I’m not going to go give a huge speech in front of the team and rah rah that way. All I know is to put my pads on go out there and if guys see me working hard to get better, they say, 'Hey, 10 years in he’s still working, I can work.' You can either implode, or you can get on your details and make something of it. We can’t forfeit games. We’re not going to pull a Grambling and refuse to get on the bus. Zygi is still going to pay every person in here. They better show up and play some football, that’s the bottom line. That’s why I’m motivated. I’m upbeat. Football is what I do, not who I am. My ups and downs aren’t deterred by the season. I'm very passionate about my job."
Vikings receiver Greg Jennings followed Aaron Rodgers’ lead and didn’t say much about his lengthy chat Sunday with his former quarterback. The two had an on-field talk after the Vikings' 44-31 loss to the Packers at the Metrodome.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to see [Rodgers] face-to-face, see those guys face to face, and experience that from a different perspective,” Jennings said Tuesday. “It was a unique deal. It was different being on another sideline and in a different uniform. Obviously the outcome wasn’t what we hoped as a team, but hopefully we can get this thing turned around.”
Jennings joked to one of the children at a Starkey Hearing Foundation event to throw him the ball because, “I haven’t caught it in a minute.” The wideout had one reception for nine yards against the Packers. He was targeted three times despite playing 38 of the team’s 47 offensive snaps.
“It’s a rough time,” Jennings said. “It’s humbling. No pun intended with the kid on catching the ball, just a couple days off. But it’s just one of those things where you learn to grow in every situation and you’re humbled in every situation if you allow yourself to be. That’s where I am now.”
Jennings has 25 catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns through seven games. Take away the eight-game season he had last year because of a groin injury, and Jennings is on pace to have his least productive season since his rookie year.
“Everything takes time, everything is a process,” Jennings said. “Nothing just comes like that. We’ll see, maybe this latter half of the year is our time, maybe not. We’re going to continue to work to win games, to be successful on the football field and give our fans something to cheer for.”
Tragic news for Vikings running back Matt Asiata, whose father died in a bus crash in Utah on Monday.
Here is the Salt Lake Tribune report on the crash. Pita Asiata was driving a charter bus that ran into the rear of a construction truck. Pita Asiata suffered “massive chest trauma,” according to the Utah Highway Patrol, when the crash drove a large auger on the truck through the front of the bus and into the driver’s seat.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pita Asiata, the father of Matt and Shawn Asiata. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Matt, Shawn and their entire family as they go through this extremely difficult time," University of Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement released to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Matt and his brother, Shawn, played college football at Utah.
The Vikings issued this statement: We are aware of the tragic incident involving Matt’s father, Pita Asiata. This is heartbreaking news for Matt and his family. We are here to support the Asiata family in any way possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Asiata family.
Greg Jennings took a sorrowful tone Tuesday when discussing his relationship with the Packers.
The receiver, who spent seven seasons in Green Bay before signing with the Vikings in the offseason, said he wished he could rephrase some of the critical words used to describe the Packers earlier in the season.
“It’s a phenomenal organization,” Jennings said of the Packers. “I had to make my departure. There were some things said that, man, if I could say it over again I would re-word it so that it can be conveyed a little differently. But they were said, and I can’t focus on that. I need to focus on the now and who am I am and what I am now.”
Jennings previously said he was “brainwashed to think anyone in the division is tiers below,” when he signed with the Packers and also said Aaron Rodgers lacked leadership skills. The wide receiver said he wished those comments never happened.
”I know this is a rivalry, but I don’t hate anyone over there,” Jennings said. “The organization was great to me, fans were great to me and the guys continue to be great to me. I still have relationships with those guys, and I’ll forever have relationships for those guys.”
The Vikings will face the Packers on Sunday in the Jennings’ first game against his former team. While he had consistency at the quarterback position in Green Bay, the Vikings made their third quarterback change of this season this week. Christian Ponder will start at quarterback, as Josh Freeman deals with a concussion.
“Anytime you have to take a backseat, anytime you have to sit down for a minute, it gives you time to reflect,” Jennings said on Ponder. “I think he’s done that. I think he’s seen how important it is to play at a high level at that position, but even more importantly how important that position is to the overall success of the team and what it takes to actually hold that position. It’s not just about your quarterback play, it’s about how you lead off the field as well and on the field. I think he’s had an opportunity to see that.”
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