So who is the most underrated player on the Vikings’ 75-man roster?
A reporter already had made up his mind, but was looking for some healthy discussion when receiver and most-underrated candidate Jarius Wright happened to walk by.
“I’d have to go with Adam Thielen,” Wright said. “Go back to last year against Chicago. The Bears were on the sideline pointing at him and yelling, ‘Decoy! Decoy!’ ”
That was about the time Thielen ran through the Bears for a 44-yard touchdown reception.
“Never been called a decoy before,” Thielen said. “So it was a good time for [the touchdown] to happen.”
So, Adam, who do you think is the most underrated Viking?
“I’d have to say Charles Johnson,” Thielen said.
Sorry, starting receivers in the NFL aren’t eligible. You’re dismissed.
Looking for the blue-collar vote, the reporter turned to interior offensive lineman Joe Berger.
A list of candidates was introduced to the 33-year-old veteran backup. He balked at first, saying he “wasn’t a qualified talent evaluator.” He was assured that being unqualified no longer disqualifies anyone from being an NFL analyst.
So, Joe, here we go.
Candidate No. 1: Tom Johnson, backup defensive tackle/nickel pass rusher.
“I think Tom kind of got some recognition last year with getting those [6½] sacks he got,” Berger said. “I’d have trouble calling him underrated. I feel like he’s known.”
Candidate No. 2: Thielen.
“Yeah, he’s a guy who played well for us last year,” Berger said. “It’s hard for me to say. I’m not great at evaluating other positions.”
Joe, Joe, Joe. Just remember that if you yell louder than the other guy, your opinion wins. You do have a TV, right?
Candidate No. 3: Left guard Brandon Fusco.
“Nah,” Joe said. “It’s hard for me to say you’re underrated when you get a big contract like he got.”
Candidate No. 4: No. 3 running back Matt Asiata.
“Yes,” Berger said. “He runs the ball hard. He’s fun to have in the huddle.”
Candidate No. 5: Backup defensive end Justin Trattou.
“Yeah, I could see him fitting on this list,” Berger said.
Candidate No. 6: Backup quarterback Shaun Hill.
“C’mon,” Berger said. “He’s a known commodity. You can’t be underrated when you’ve been in the league 15 years.”
Actually, 14 years. But you’re right.
So you pick one, Joe.
“Give me [Marcus] Sherels,” said Berger, referring to the rags-to-riches return man/kick coverage tackler/durable backup cornerback.
“It seems like every year, you guys in the media are talking about him getting released,” Berger said.
Guilty, your honor. But, if it helps, we have reached the point where we say we shouldn’t be talking about it while we’re talking about it.
“This guy plays hard and he plays well, but it’s the same thing every year,” Berger said.
There is one more candidate. He’s one of nine backup offensive linemen now on the roster.
Those nine backup linemen have combined for 99 regular-season games played. Eight of them have combined for zero, while the other guy has 99.
This other guy has started at left guard in a pinch. He started at right guard for nine games when Fusco went down last year. Currently, he’s taking the overall panic out of a lengthy absence by center John Sullivan, who has missed seven practices and two preseason games because of back spasms.
His name? Joe Berger.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman certainly appreciates Berger. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have made it an offseason priority to re-sign the 11-year veteran for two more years.
But does the average fan spend much time thinking about Berger? Or even know that he has 38 career starts, including 18 at three different positions since joining the Vikings in 2011?
“That’s my goal,” Berger said. “I hope that’s the case, that when someone goes down, no one notices. We have great starters. I just come to work, do my job and if people see it, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s fine, too.”
Spoken like the most underrated player on the Vikings’ roster.