MANKATO – Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was about 45 seconds into answering a question about Twitter and NFL players when he stopped. A look of fear swept across his face.
“Why do you ask?” he asked. “Did one of our players tweet something I should know about?”
No. Just wondering how Mike Ditka’s blood pressure would have handled Twitter in 1985.
“Oh, man,” Frazier said. “Jim McMahon with a Twitter account? Our Super Bowl week would have been a mess.”
When it comes to social media, Frazier has only one directive and one piece of advice. The directive: Don’t reveal what happens in meetings and practice. The piece of advice: Use common sense in a world where that’s becoming increasingly uncommon.
“I like to tweet,” defensive end Brian Robison (@Brian_Robison) said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to erase something before I hit send. But I definitely think before I tweet.”
Thinking. A novel concept. And one that not all followers exercise in return when responding to NFL players — or anyone, for that matter.
“Sometimes I read it, sometimes I don’t,” said receiver Jerome Simpson (@rome081). “Sometimes, I laugh. Like when they say my head is too big.”
Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia made headlines a week ago when he quit Twitter because he no longer could take the negativity. He’s certainly not the first person in the public eye to swear off Twitter. Nor will he be the last.
“I can’t say I’d never quit Twitter,” said Vikings cornerback Chris Cook (@Cook_Isle). “But I think I’ve gotten thick enough skin to handle it after all I’ve been through.”
Since joining the Vikings, Cook has faced and been cleared in separate incidents involving gun charges and felony domestic abuse.
“I won’t tell you the worst thing anyone has said to me on Twitter, but you can probably imagine,” Cook said. “The situation where I got into it with my girlfriend, somebody said something along the lines of how I basically was a coward. Only they used a bunch of other words, too. I used to respond, but now I understand that I’m under a microscope so I need to tread lightly.”
As you also might imagine, NFL quarterbacks can find themselves buried up to their chin straps in negative tweets.
“If I respond, which I usually don’t, I use humor,” said Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (@cponder7). “Attacking my game is one thing. But criticizing my family or making it personal is different. It’s weird. There are social norms in the real world. But then you get on Twitter and there’s no social norms whatsoever.”
Or, as Robison put it, “Twitter makes tough guys out of everybody.”
To tweet or not to tweet isn’t a question for everybody. Believe it or not, there still are Vikings who don’t tweet, won’t tweet, never will tweet.
“I’m not interested in people being in my business and tweeting, ‘Oh, I just left this place, I just did this,’ ” defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. “Plus, in this day and age, everything you say has to be censored or you’re in trouble.”
Williams wasn’t finished. In NFL years, he’s the old guy in the plaid shorts and knee-high black socks screaming at the kids to “Get off my lawn!”
“And everyone has to have an opinion,” Williams added. “Everybody is always so critical of everything. It shouldn’t be that way, and I don’t want any part of it.”
Quarterback Matt Cassel doesn’t have a Twitter account, either.
“It’s not for me,” he said. “What am I going to do? Tell people I’m picking my nose today? I don’t get it.”
Linebacker Chad Greenway is on Twitter, but doesn’t tweet. He also doesn’t allow any followers.
“I just use it as a news source,” Green-way said. “I don’t need to be worrying about somebody else’s comments or opinions. I’m a married man with children. I have plenty of other stresses and worries. And I also don’t lead a crazy enough life for Twitter.”
Running back Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) said he considers some of the negativity — such as a Twitter page entitled @HghPeterson — a compliment. Meanwhile, safety Jamarca Sanford (@sanford33) and Simpson both said the best approach to the negativity is to “kill ’em with kindness.”
“But,” Simpson said, “I usually just try not to read a lot of stuff because Twitter gave a voice to a lot of people who don’t have a brain.”