Whatever the Vikings did during the national anthem on Sunday, they wanted to show a “unified front,” according to defensive end Brian Robison. From the top of the organization on down, they did.
Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, along with General Manager Rick Spielman, locked arms together during the pregame “Star-Spangled Banner”, two days after President Donald Trump called for NFL owners to fire players who chose to take a knee during the national anthem.
“For us it was about our team, showing solidarity and showing a unified front and made sure everyone knew we are a brotherhood,” Robison said. “I think there’s a lot of comments that are going outside the football facilities, and I think we were able to stand up and make a big-time statement today with what we did.”
All Vikings players were standing at attention during the anthem, even if some chose not to lock arms with their teammates. At least two Buccaneers players, receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans, chose to take a knee on Tampa Bay’s sideline while most of their teammates also locked arms while standing.
“The biggest thing is we still respect our flag,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said, “and what it stands for and the men and women that served that allow us to go out there and do what we do.”
A few players and coach Mike Zimmer said their choice to interlock arms wasn’t planned ahead of time. On Friday, during a campaign rally for an Alabama GOP senator, Trump said NFL owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem. He encouraged NFL fans to “leave the stadium” if they wanted protests to stop.
No Vikings player had previously done anything out of the norm during the national anthem since the protests began last year with ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“It’s disrespectful,” defensive tackle Tom Johnson said of Trump’s remarks. “The guys here, we all know what’s going on and how the president feels, but we’re not going to let that destroy what we got going on.”
Diggs breaks out
Receiver Stefon Diggs didn’t need Sam Bradford to have another big game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With Case Keenum under center, Diggs caught eight of 11 targets for 173 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He could’ve had an even bigger day, but Diggs dropped a couple passes.
“It’s fun when that guy is on the field,” Keenum said. “He’s a special dude.”
Diggs has four touchdowns on the season, tying his career high in just three games.
Rhodes on Evans
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes drew another tough assignment, this time in shadowing 6-5 Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans. Again, Rhodes was up for the task.
Rhodes followed Evans across the Buccaneers formations, even traveling inside to defend Evans from the slot. That evolution of Rhodes’ game is fairly new, and he did well. Evans caught seven passes for 67 yards, with much of the damage done on in-breaking routes taking Evans away from Rhodes.
Cook pacing ahead of AP
Running back Dalvin Cook surpassed Adrian Peterson by putting up 288 rushing yards in his first three games, breaking Peterson’s old franchise record of 271. Cook compiled 97 rushing yards on a career-high 27 carries against the Buccaneers.
The Vikings caught a banged-up Buccaneers defense, which started Sunday’s game without cornerback Brent Grimes and linebacker Kwon Alexander due to injuries. Tampa Bay also lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for part of the game. Linebacker Lavonte David was carted off with a few minutes left.