You’d think more people would know what the heck George Stewart and his receivers are saying, doing and pretending to do every time they break their huddle.
“All I know is they make a lot of weird sounds,” said Vikings left guard Brandon Fusco.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said he likes it. Whatever it is. Then he tried to impersonate Stewart, the Vikings receivers coach, breaking down the huddle.
“It’s just a bunch of, ‘Boom, bang, de-de-de-de-de!’ ” he said. “I don’t know what they’re saying, but they definitely know what they’re saying.”
“What do we say?” asked rookie Stefon Diggs. “The first word sounds like, ‘Woose.’ I don’t know how you spell it. I guess W-o-o-s-e?”
Actually, according to Stewart, it’s spelled “WRs,” the abbreviation for wide receivers. Only it sounds different.
“I guess if you had to pronounce it, you’d pronounce it, ‘Woots,’ ” Stewart said. “So it’s, ‘Woots on me, woots on three. One, two, three, Woots!’ ”
Then comes a burst of grown men yelling “bang,” “boom” and other noises as they draw their trigger fingers and start pretending to fire away.
“We’re all trying to make plays, so when the ball’s in the air, it’s like we’re shooting ducks out of the sky,” Stewart said. “Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Try and get those ducks to come your way and shoot them out of the sky.”
Shooting ducks as a metaphor for making big plays? Somewhere, Bud Grant is smiling.
“I have never been on a team that has had six receivers active on game day like we have [the past two weeks],” said Stewart, in his 27th season as an NFL coach. “And all six are very beneficial to our football team in some phase or another.”
No other team in the league had six receivers active in Week 8. Ten had four active. The Bengals had three.
Two weeks ago, five of the Vikings’ six receivers caught passes while the other one, Cordarrelle Patterson, averaged 26.8 yards on four kickoff returns in the win at Detroit. Last week, only three caught passes, but the unit’s interchangeable quality was showcased in the closing seconds when Diggs, the star of the game, went down with a hamstring injury and was replaced by former starter Charles Johnson, who made a leaping grab for a 35-yard reception to set up the winning field goal as time expired.
“He gets six plays in the ballgame, but when his opportunity comes up, he makes a great play,” Zimmer said. “He is really a perfect example of what I’m trying to get this team to be like: Somebody that was playing a lot, not playing near as much now, but still does his job, concentrates, works real hard in practice and then when his opportunities come about, you go make a play. It was a great catch.”
Mike Wallace leads the team in receptions with 26. But Diggs leads the NFL in catches of 20 yards or more since Week 4 (10). And Jarius Wright has the longest catch of the season (52).
“Trust me, they all want to make plays,” Stewart said. “Everybody does. In this game, you have a high degree of ego, but they understand the big scheme. And I guess because I was an offensive lineman, we were selfless. I try to teach that to these receivers.”
Stewart was an All-America guard at Arkansas before spending his only NFL season, 1981, on Kansas City’s injured reserve.
After six years coaching at the college level, including a two-year stint as Gophers offensive line coach, Stewart joined the NFL. He was a special teams coach for seven seasons in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and San Francisco.
In the mid-1990s, when it was believed Stewart needed more experience on offense or defense to further his chances of becoming a college head coach, 49ers coach Bill Walsh said he would move Stewart into the first position job that became available. As fate would have it, the first opening was a job coaching Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and other 49ers receivers.
Stewart has been a receivers coach ever since. In 2007, he joined the Vikings and met two receivers, Bobby Wade and Robert Ferguson, who came up with the daily ritual Stewart still uses to break the huddle.
“Those guys play with a lot of swagger,” Munnerlyn said. “I don’t know exactly what they do with that huddle thing. But I like it.”