Just finishing up a big Sunday story on new Vikings Hall of Famer Mick Tingelhoff. Thanks to Mick, his exceptional wife Phyllis, son Pat and granddaughter Jazzmyn for all their help. Same goes to all the former players, especially running back Dave Osborn, as well as Bud Grant, long-time head athletic trainer and current team historian Fred Zamberletti and media relations veteran Tom West.
You can’t spend this much time on the career of Mick Tingelhoff and not think of him and Jim Marshall when the word “ironmen” is used to describe football players. Yeah, the gunslinger from Green Bay who drifted west for two years in Purple also comes to mind.
In the history of the NFL, only 13 players have started 200 or more consecutive regular season games. The top three, four of the top six and five of the top 13 once played for the Vikings. Here’s the list:
1. Brett Favre, QB 297
2. Jim Marshall, DE 270
3. Mick Tingelhoff, C 240
4. Bruce Matthews, OL 229
5. Will Shields, G 223
6. Alan Page, DT 215
(tie) Ronde Barber, DB 215
(tie) London Fletcher, LB 215
9. Jim Otto, C 210
10. Derrick Brooks, LB 208
(tie) Peyton Manning, QB 208
12. Gene Upshaw, G 207
13. Randall McDaniel, G 202
Among current Vikings, center John Sullivan is the only player with enough consecutive starts to rank in the top five ironmen at his position. There’s something about Vikings centers and showing up every week. Sullivan’s streak of 57 games stretches back to 2011.
Among current NFL centers, only Houston’s Chris Myers has more consecutive starts (128).
In terms of consecutive games played, three current Vikings rank in the top five at their positions. Everson Griffen (75) leads all Vikings players and is No. 2 at defensive end behind New England’s Rob Ninkovich (86). Backup interior offensive lineman Joe Berger is fourth among centers (61) while Sullivan is fifth.
Considering he played quarterback, it’s tough to argue that Favre’s streak isn’t the most impressive, not only in football but any sport. But the streaks for Marshall and Tingelhoff could have been longer had they played more years with a 16-game schedule. Of course, those extra games also were extra opportunities to be injured.
Marshall opened his 20-year career with one year (1960) in the 12-game schedule. He played 16 years in a 14-game schedule and the final two in a 16-game schedule.
Tingelhoff (1961-78) played all but the last of his 17 seasons in a 14-game schedule.
I asked him why he stopped.
“I had had enough,” he said. “I was too old.”
Phyllis said Mick’s close relationship with Grant was a primary reason he walked away at 38.
“He didn’t want to put Bud in position to have to say to him, ‘You’re done,’” Phyllis said. “He wanted to go out on his own terms. And Fran [Tarkenton] was retiring that year, too. That was really a good way for Mick to go out. On his own terms.”