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.
Brett Favre still has a way with words.
Nearly two years since Favre was persuaded into playing a second season with the Vikings – his return to Winter Park tracked by helicopters and blanketed with ultra-sensationalized coverage -- Favre took time recently to reflect on that 2010 chaos and the 6-10 season that followed.
Just a warning: some of what the legendary quarterback had to say probably isn’t going to sit well with Vikings’ fans.
Yes, Favre’s first season in Minnesota was magical. Remember that last-second 32-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Greg Lewis in Week 3? Remember those 12 regular-season victories and the playoff thrashing of Dallas? Remember how close the Vikings were to reaching Super Bowl XLIV before a handful of unfortunate twists resulted in a 31-28 NFC title game loss to the Saints?
Well, as magical as the Vikings’ 2009 run was, 2010 provided a boatload of frustrations. Those 10 losses. The 19 interceptions Favre threw. His 69.9 quarterback rating. The failed return of Randy Moss. The firing of coach Brad Childress. The roof collapse at Mall of America Field. And the nasty hit Favre took on the icy turf at TCF Bank Stadium that effectively ended his career.
In some ways, Favre confesses, he saw such struggles coming. In a one-on-one sitdown down with Deion Sanders that aired this week on the NFL Network, Favre offered a candid if somewhat bothersome explanation on why he felt compelled to play for the Vikings in 2010.
“First of all,” Favre said, “the money was too good. The money was too good. And I hate to say it’s about money. I felt the money was a lot. But the guys, I kind of felt like even though I knew it was going to be next to impossible [to duplicate the 2009 success] – I wouldn’t tell them [that]. Sidney [Rice], Jared [Allen], [Steve] Hutchinson and Adrian [Peterson], they were like, ‘Unfinished business.’ I just knew that it probably was finished.”
Favre recalled the visit he received at his Mississippi home in the middle of the preseason when Allen, Hutchinson and kicker Ryan Longwell showed up in Hattiesburg, to persuade him to make another run.
One of the first thoughts to run through Favre’s mind?
“I knew this wasn’t going to end well,” he told Sanders.
“No one ever talked about this is going to be hard to duplicate,” Favre said. “But I think we all [were thinking it].”
And so before anyone knew it, a 2010 season that was supposed to provide an energized encore to 2009’s thrill ride, sent the Vikings on a stumble from which they have still yet to right themselves.
Asked by Sanders if he has now found closure on his 20-year career, Favre nodded.
“Yeah,” he said. “I probably knew when I got off the plane [in 2010]. I didn’t have to play a down. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t give my all. It just wasn’t to be, and I think I knew that. I really know it now.”
A humble man by nature, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier spoke up for his importance in shaping the future of the franchise when asked whether he feels the youth movement being orchestrated by new General Manager Rick Spielman puts the head coach in danger of not being able to win enough games to keep his job beyond 2012.
"The thing you have to understand when we're building a team, it's `we.' It's not `Rick,'" Frazier said today following the team's second day of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) practices. "Rick could not build this team without the head coach being in concert with him in doing that. That wouldn't be good for he or I."
Frazier is entering the second of a three-year deal. It's also the final year that the team has to pay former coach Brad Childress.
Frazier has a 6-16 record, resides in the NFL's toughest division (NFC North) and is leading a team that's universally considered at least a year away from contending. He'll have a second-year quarterback, three new starters on the offensive line, possibly two rookie starters at safety, new faces at nose tackle and middle linebacker, and a rookie kicker who missed 14 of 35 kicks at Georgia last year. Oh yeah, his best player (Adrian Peterson) had his left knee rebuilt in late December.
Still, Frazier said he participated fully with Spielman in the decisions to let go of several veterans, including reliable kicker Ryan Longwell.
"There isn't a decision that's made that the two of us don't talk about and agree upon," Frazier said. "It would just not be good. So the decisions that have been made are decisions that were discussed and we were in agreement that this is the right thing to do. It's hard build a team if the general manager and the head coach aren't on the same page. And we are, thank goodness."
Harvin, Peterson put on hill-climbing exhibition: It's tough to say who worked harder at Winter Park today: The players in uniform or the two injured guys racing repeatedly to the top of the steep hill near the practice fields.
The two injured guys -- running back Adrian Peterson and receiver Percy Harvin -- didn't look quite so injured based on how well -- and how many times -- they ran up the hill. Peterson continues to be ahead of schedule following late December surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Harvin had minor shoulder surgery recently. He's got full strength back, but is being held out of the early OTAs as a precaution.
"The good thing is those guys are competing; they push one another," Frazier said. "That's good for us. Two great athletes like that pushing one another in their rehab, That's a good thing."
Peterson has been in town rehabbing his knee. Harvin arrived Monday night, earning a pile of credit from teammates and coaches impressed that he decided to show up for the voluntary workouts.
"I gave him a big hug," Frazier said. "He texted me Monday night, Memorial Day. I wasn't sure what his flight schedule was going to be. He said, `I'm in town, what doctors do I need to see tomorrow morning?' I texted him back and asked, `Is this the Percy Harvin? He's just great for our meetings, great for our coaches ... Just to have him on the side and in the meetings. He's a guy who is so well-respected by our team and is such a playmaker, and now he's become one of the leaders on our team. It is great that he would be here in a voluntary decision."
Harvin said he never had a doubt about showing up.
"If I remember correct, I told you guys [media] last year at the end of the season that I was going to make it a point to make sure most of the team was here," Harvin said. "I think we got 98 percent here."
Jared Allen, Greenway only veteran no-shows: Defensive end Jared Allen and linebacker Chad Greenway were the only veteran no-shows. As noted earlier, cornerback Asher Allen told Frazier last Thursday that he has decided to retire.
Frazier said Greenway had a "family matter" to tend to. He also said he "hopes" to see Allen show up for OTAs next week. OTAs are voluntary, so Frazier chose to focus on the fact that all but two veterans were attending.
"The fact that we have the guys we have here is something to get excited about, and that's what I'm excited about," Frazier said. "Participation is a big deal. A big deal when you're trying to install the things that we're installing and trying to build a championship team."
Center John Sullivan is here, but didn't practice. He left the facility limping with a sleeve covering his left leg. The injury isn't believed to be serious.
Erin Henderson ready for `prove-it' year: Linebacker Erin Henderson was asked if he was ready for a "prove-it" year after signing a one-year deal this offseason.
"Of course," he said. "You got to improve. The moment you get complacent, the moment somebody's going to run you out the door. You got to come to work everyday and grind. It's tough work, but you have to find a way to get it done."
Ponder looking for better percentage on first downs: It's rare when a player gives specifics when asked for specific things he's looking to improve on. Normally, they spout cliches or give some kind of general mumbo jumbo. Quarterback Christian Ponder gave us that rare answer today when asked for the thing he wants to improve on most.
"For me and the offense, No. 1 is doing a lot better job on first down," Ponder said. "We want to be completing 75 percent of our passes on first down. I think we were low 60s, around 63 percent, last year.
"That's going to help us be so much better on third down and eventually points scored per game. I think it's important for me. I have to do a better job moving around in the pocket and not taking off so early. Get a better feel for the pocket and make better decisions. ...Just smarter decisions. not trying to force the ball down the field. I think if we have `go' routes called and it's not open, to check it down. I think it comes down to patience and knowing your reads and finding the open guy. Football is not that hard of a game. You have to find the open guy and get the ball to him."
Brinkley still holding back following hip surgery: The good news is it's May 30 and players aren't supposed to be ready for opening day on May 30. But Frazier said he's still looking for middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley to prove he can come back from the major hip surgery that wiped out his entire 2011 season. Brinkley is working with the first unit and the starting job is his to lose.
"He's getting there mentally, but there are still some things that he's holding back on," Frazier said. "He's got to get to the point where he's got to let it go a little bit. It's still early. We've only had two practices and we'll see how he progresses. But we'll need him to let it go at some point."
The biggest transaction news out of Winter Park this week was the Monday night release of kicker Ryan Longwell, the Vikings cutting ties with the veteran kicker after six seasons. Longwell made 135 regular season field goals and 228 extra points during his days in purple. In fact, if you’re curious as to when the Vikings last played a game without Longwell, you’d have to rewind to Jan. 1, 2006, a 34-10 blowout of Chicago. Paul Edinger was the Vikings kicker then, Brad Johnson was the quarterback, Mike Tice was in his final game as head coach. (For further perspective, at that time Jared Allen was finishing his second season in Kansas City, Adrian Peterson was finishing his sophomore year at Oklahoma and Christian Ponder was a budding senior at Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas.)
On when the decision was made to move on from Longwell …
While taking a breath in this free-agent
yawner frenzy ...
Funny how things change in a year.
A year ago, the Seahawks needed a quarterback. They signed Tarvaris Jackson, who had spent his first five NFL seasons either struggling and/or being shoved aside to make room for Brett Favre's post-Mankato arrivals.
When the Seahawks nabbed T-Jack, Seattle GM John Schneider gave an interview to Yahoo! that slammed a big old club right over former Vikings coach Brad Childress, who hooked T-Jack in 2006, but was too stubborn to throw him back when he started to stink up the boat.
"He has not been in a good situation," Schneider said at the time. "He's been jerked around. We wanted to put him in a stable situation."
Schneider also said, "He's 28 years old, and quite frankly, was ..." um, well, "... on for four years."
Schneider later apologized to the Vikings. As free agency unfolds this year, one has to think that somewhere in Northeast Ohio, Childress, the Browns new offensive coordinator, is enjoying what's going on in Seattle this spring.
One of the more fascinating non-Peyton transactions of the spring is Seattle's signing of quarterback Matt Flynn, who got a three-year deal that will pay him $13 million for each of the two NFL starts he now has on his resume.
So, yes, the team that said the Vikings jerked T-Jack around by signing Brett Favre went out and got its own former Packer -- albeit one with about 300 or so fewer starts. By the way, the Seahawks also tried to sign Manning as well, which is further evidence that teams trying to groom Tarvaris are usually going to be teams looking to replace Tarvaris.
The Seahawks say Flynn and Jackson will compete for the job. But something tells me if this were a 40-yard dash, Flynn would be starting on the 33-yard line.
A year after ripping the Vikings for jerking Jackson around, Schneider might want to thank them for helping Jackson deal with what appears to be the backup to a guy with two starts.
If nothing else comes of it -- and that's a distinct
probability possibility -- Randy Moss' clamoring about wanting to come back to the NFL is making for some interesting viewing via Ustream.tv for attention-span-challenged football fans coming to grips with the fact that there are actually 18 looong days between the Super Bowl and the start of the scouting combine. (Hey, even Mel Kiper can't fill 18 whole days.)
Moss was a shell of his former self at age 33 while catching 28 passes as a mostly disinterested participant for the Patriots, Vikings and Titans in 2010. He retired after the 2010 season and wasn't heard from again until he turned to Ustream on Monday morning to announce his plans for a comeback.
Monday night, as Moss' 35th birthday was coming to a close, he returned to Ustream -- or what he's now calling "Moss TV" -- to stoke the comeback fire by saying, "I’m coming to tear somebody’s heads off, man.”
Moss also insisted he's fully committed to this comeback and that he still runs a 4.3 40-yard dash.
Moss also said he wants to play for a team that's "missing a piece here and there."
As for regrets, Randy, like Frank, said he's had a few: “I got regrets of how I left New England, I got regrets of how I left Minnesota, and I got regrets of how I retired.”
Moss said he'd "doubt" that he'd play for the Vikings again. It's good he feels that way because there is no interest in a SuperFreak III sequel at Winter Park. Moss also laughed when one of the viewers commenting warned him that Brad Childress, the coach he clashed with in Minnesota, was now offensive coordinator in Cleveland.
Moss said he'll return to Ustream, so consider yourself perched upon pins n needles. And don't worry. If "Moss TV" becomes a bore, there's still plenty to look forward to. Randy says he's saving all the behind-the-scenes details of his 2010 Minnesota meltdown for the book he plans to write.
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