Former Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer, 62, is in town this weekend for a fundraiser and to attend Sunday’s game between the Vikings and Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. In advance of that, Kramer chatted Thursday with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q When you played, especially in the late 1980s, the quarterback situation with the Vikings was back and forth all the time with you and Wade Wilson. What’s your perspective on that as it relates to what the Vikings are going through this season with Sam Bradford getting injured?
A Yeah, that all stemmed from my injuries. When it first happened, I couldn’t raise my right arm for two months. … Whenever Wade was in there, I was going to be there to support him. The whole thing is to win. Usually they would let you know if you were going in, so you could warm up on the sidelines a little bit. I didn’t have a problem with it. All we wanted to do was win. When injuries happen, there’s not much you can do about it.
Q You had a reputation for thriving under pressure, with the “Two-Minute Tommy” nickname. Why did you have so much success in crunch time?
A I mean, I got that name in high school. A lot of games that season came down to the final possession. The way I prepared for that was starting in ninth grade, I’d go out and throw 250 passes four days in a row every week during the summer. I wanted to build strength in my arm and accuracy. And every time I threw a pass, I would say, ‘This is going to be for the district championship’ or some such thing. In my mind, I was putting pressure on myself so that when I was in a game it felt like I had seen every situation in my head before. It’s more mental than anything else.
Q How much do you watch the current Vikings?
A I watch them all the time. I have the DirecTV package. I hated to see Teddy Bridgewater [get hurt] last year. I can’t imagine how you can drop back in practice and tear a knee up. If it wasn’t bad luck, there’s no luck at all. Last year it surprised me when Norv Turner left. But I thought what Bradford did — get back there and get rid of it — was good. Burnsie [former Vikings coach Jerry Burns] used to say, “Tommy, if that guy is open in the flat, hit him! He might run for 10 or 15 yards, maybe a touchdown. If he’s open just get him the ball.” … This year, it’s not easy for Case Keenum coming in like he had to. Now he has confidence and the receivers know he’s going to get the ball to them. And he has some mobility.
Q When you think about your career, what comes to mind?
A The only thing you don’t like — I wouldn’t say you feel like you failed — but the object of the game is to win a Super Bowl and we never did that. Still haven’t done that. That’s the worst part to me. But I set some records, made the Pro Bowl. You play 14 years in the league and that’s not too bad.
Q What are you up to these days down in San Antonio?
A I’m retired. I go out and mow the yard on my John Deere tractor. Every day is a Saturday. I go to the grocery store. You can go on the seniors’ hours when there aren’t a lot of people there. All the kids are in school, so it’s not crowded. I love to grill ribs, ribeyes, burgers. All kinds of things.