In NFL, it's talent that makes winners

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 29, 2007 - 9:48 PM

The Vikings have been concerned with the character of the players on their roster. Their No. 1 concern should be getting the best players possible.

Yes, character is important in the NFL, but a lot of players have great character and can't play.

And a lot of coaches in the NFL get fired -- not because they aren't good coaches, but because they don't have good players and have to pass up some real athletes.

Mike Shanahan, the great coach of the Denver Broncos, knows he needs good players to win. He thought enough of Florida defensive tackle Marcus Thomas that he gave the Vikings a sixth- and seventh-round pick this year and a third-round selection in 2008 to take Thomas in the fourth round of the NFL draft Sunday, even though Thomas has had some personal problems in the past.

The 6-3, 314-pound Thomas played only five games for the eventual national champion Gators in 2006. He was first suspended for failing two marijuana tests, then kicked off for good in November for violating provisions of a contract he signed to stay with the team.

Apparently, Shanahan had Thomas visit Denver and was convinced that his bad days were behind him, and that if it had not been for Thomas' problems at Florida, he would have been a first-round choice.

I recall when Bud Grant first took over as Vikings coach, he and General Manager Jim Finks were in the process of going over the roster. Finks would point out some of the bad habits of a particular player and Grant would say, "Can he play?" If Finks said yes, Grant would answer, "That's what you hired me for."

I am convinced Brad Childress can handle any player with bad habits and turn the guy around, and furthermore, he would enjoy the challenge. And Childress, like other coaches, knows you win with talent.

But since the Love Boat incident on Lake Minnetonka, Vikings ownership has been overly nervous about adding players with any type of off-field problems. Rick Spielman, the team's vice president of player personnel, talked about all of the good players they eliminated from consideration this weekend because of their personal no-nos.

Thomas might have been a bigger asset to the Vikings than the draft choices they got from Denver. He must be pretty good if a great evaluator of talent such as Shanahan would give up three draft choices to get him.

Then there is Randy Moss, who, for those who believe he has lost it, ran a swift 4.3 40-yard dash in Florida last week when timed by the Packers and Patriots. New England gave up a fourth-round choice to Oakland for the great, great former Vikings receiver.

He passed his physical with flying colors and then agreed to redo his contract, with the Boston Globe reporting he will take a pay cut from the $9.25 million he was due this year to only $3 million.

"I've never been a selfish ballplayer. I've been selfish for winning, but as far as me getting the ball and me getting my numbers, I've never been selfish," Moss told reporters in the teleconference. "I understand that an organization pays me a certain amount of dollars to make things happen, and when things don't happen, of course I get mad. ... Hopefully, some things will work out, and I'm looking forward to this opportunity to showcase my real talent."

Yes, the Vikings have had trouble selling tickets and winning since Moss was traded to Oakland two years ago.

Bill Belichick will find a way to handle Moss just like Dennis Green did. Look for Moss to play a part in helping send the Patriots to another Super Bowl. When it gets down to the fans, the most important thing is "win, baby."

Will be healthy

Adrian Peterson, the Vikings' top choice in the draft, has passed all his physicals by team doctors, and there doesn't seem to be any doubt that the Oklahoma superstar running back will be able to perform once the season starts.

But Peterson did take a chance playing in Fiesta Bowl, when he ended up suffering a setback with his broken collarbone, an injury initially suffered in October against Iowa State, costing him the final seven games of the regular season.

"I was just anxious to get back on the field, I guess it's all about my character and the kind of player, you know, the drive that I had in me," Peterson said on his decision to play against Boise State in the Jan. 1 BCS game in Glendale, Ariz.

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