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There is some precedent for Vikings players heading to Chicago and vice-versa, but one of the examples that ranks among the strangest and among those with the biggest impact is one that remains somewhat hidden from history -- at least for the current generation of fans.
Alan Page, to refresh your memory, was a dominant player for the Vikings for more than a decade. He even won the NFL MVP Award in 1971. But in 1978, at age 33, he was cut by Minnesota in the middle of the season. The reasons why often descend into matter of whose story you believe, but the basics of it are outlined very nicely in a 1979 SI story that is very conveniently on display in the wonderful SI Vault. Here are some of the key sentences:
"Not too bad for a guy who they said couldn't play anymore," Page says.
That is what Bud Grant, the Vikings' coach, maintained last Oct. 10 when he broke the news to a shocked Minnesota press that Page, who had started 160 consecutive games for the Vikings, had been released. "Alan can no longer meet the standard he set for himself," Grant said at the time. "He just can't make the plays anymore."
It was widely reported that Page's weight—through running, he trimmed down from 245 pounds to the 222 he weighs today—was a major factor in the alleged erosion of his skills. Grant said as much when pressed to defend his decision: "Here is a man we had to take out in short-yardage situations, who was not strong enough to rush the passer. He averaged 10 tackles a game for years, and now he was down to one or two. He was not doing the job."
Although Page had also weighed 222 in 1977, when he tied for the club lead in tackles (109), most members of the Twin Cities press did not take Grant to task over this small point. If Grant said Page was through, then he was through. "In Minnesota, Bud Grant is like Mom and apple pie and the flag," Diane Page says. "It's fun to be able to sit back now and call him a turkey."
Because this time the old gobbler was wrong. There was still a lot of football left in Page, who had been the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1971—the only defensive player ever to win the award. And the Bears, whose general manager (Jim Finks), coach (Neill Armstrong) and defensive coordinator (Buddy Ryan) had all been in Minnesota with Page, knew it. They paid the waiver price of $100. "A hundred dollars more than the Vikings deserved," says Page, who responded by melding an inexperienced, injury-beset line into a strong, proud unit. Though playing in only 10 games at right tackle, Page led the Bears in sacks (11½) and was tied for second among linemen in tackles with 50. Chicago's defense surged from 22nd in the NFL to 12th, passing, among other teams, the Vikings, who dropped to 14th.
Some people know about this. Other die-hard Vikings fans we run into have no idea this ever happened. The Vikings did still win a bad division that year with an 8-7-1 record (the Bears were 7-9), but the season generally signaled a descent into mediocrity.
Allen's parting to the division rival is filled with far less acrimony. For the Vikings, looking to get younger, it was time to move on. For the Bears and Allen, it was a good fit. But this generation's Allen, like last generation's Alan, could prove to have a lot of football left in him.
It may be a good thing that Tony Gonzalez is retiring from the NFL or else he would be receiving a penalty after every touchdown. The NFL seems to be cracking down on anything remotely fun for the players these days, and the latest move was announced Tuesday: the league will no longer allow players to dunk the football over the field-goal post as part of their touchdown celebration.
Time for Jimmy Graham and others to start working on adding some flash to their layups.
The NFL had previously banned players from using the football as a prop during celebrations, so disallowing dunks from taking place is just a further adaptation of the rule.
Ah, yes. The league that continues to ask its players to prepare to lay it all on the line -- physically, mentally, emotionally -- every Sunday, but dial it all back in the heat of the moment.
Graham caused a disturbance with the goalposts in a game last year after he dunked over it. Should we ban everything that causes a one-time problem?
We're not sure if Adrian Peterson turning 29 today makes us feel old, but we're pretty sure when he turns 30 a year from now it will. Today's questions: How many more playoff appearances will Peterson make in purple, and will he ever win a Super Bowl?
Allen is said to be waiting for fair market value -- and would even consider walking away from the game if he doesn't get it (not sure if we believe that, but that report is out there).
Per NFL.com: Allen has turned down several offers as he waits for a deal that's commensurate with his abilities.
He reportedly visited the Seahawks on Sunday and will visit the Cowboys, who just lost Ware, on Tuesday. Our guess is Dallas could get desperate and give Allen a good-sized contract since they are losing defensive players left and right. Seattle's interest, we would imagine, is more of a value play.
If not Dallas, we're starting to scratch our head when it comes to landing spots for Allen if he is, indeed, intent on getting a lucrative multi-year deal. It's a reflection of his age and the market more so than ability since he's still a double-digit sack guy.
But it will be interesting to see where he eventually winds up -- and for what price.
Really, the sentiment extends to so many of Minnesota's teams. With apologies to the dominant Lynx and Gophers women's hockey team, along with the contending-in-most-years Gophers men's hockey team, there are six teams in the Twin Cities that draw the most water: the Vikings, Twins, Wild, Wolves, Gophers men's basketball and Gophers football.
We've already addressed Gophers men's basketball. Gophers football speaks for itself, with slightly above average finishes in the Big Ten serving as the apex of accomplishment in the last 40 years. The Twins had a run of six division titles in nine seasons from 2002-10, but their postseason failures diminished how history views that era. The Vikings under Dennis Green had a similar run of eight playoff appearances in 10 years, with the apex from 1998-2000, but since then it has been peaks and valleys. Wolves? Seven straight playoff one-and-dones, followed by the trip to the West finals a decade ago, and then silence since then. The Wild? The surprise run in 2003, a couple of nice regular seasons, and now perhaps the building of a contender but so far a team hanging on the playoff fringes.
This whole market is starving for a big-six team that doesn't live on the perpetual bubble. We can't hazard a guess right now as to which of them -- if any -- will be the one to step up and become a true consistent contender, but if and when it happens that team will own this state.
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