To hear Lamarcus Joyner’s version of a controversy of his own doing, he and Teddy Bridgewater are swell pals who grew up in the same area of Miami and have nothing but the utmost respect for each other.

“I have love for him and his career,” Joyner said.

He sure has a funny way of showing it.

Joyner’s malicious cheap shot knocked Bridgewater out of Sunday’s RumbleMania and sent the Vikings’ collective blood pressure soaring to unhealthy levels.

The Vikings earned the ultimate payback by winning 21-18 in overtime, but their locker room fumed afterward over the St. Louis Rams’ tactics, none angrier or more direct than coach Mike Zimmer.

Asked if the Rams crossed the line with some of their hits, Zimmer replied, “Yes.”

Asked if Joyner’s hit on Bridgewater was cheap shot, Zimmer replied, “Yes.”

Asked what effect that hit had on his sideline, Zimmer said, “I would say if we were out in the street we probably would have had a fight.”

Personally, I’d put my money on Zim, judging by the menacing look on his face as he screamed across the field at the Rams sideline.

Zimmer also reminded everyone that Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has a history of nasty stuff. Williams was the mastermind behind Bountygate, a repulsive program that rewarded New Orleans Saints players monetarily for big hits or injuries to opponents. Williams’ goonish business came to light after the Saints left Brett Favre battered and bruised in the 2009 NFC title game.

“I do know that there’s a history there with their defensive coordinator,” Zimmer said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

The cheap shot on Bridgewater happened early in the fourth quarter with the Vikings leading 18-15. Bridgewater scrambled for 5 yards and then gave himself up by sliding feet-first.

Joyner flew in and launched himself at Bridgewater, dropping his left shoulder into Bridgewater’s head, a bush-league move that probably made his defensive coordinator tingle with pride.

Bridgewater lay motionless facedown briefly before being helped to the sideline. He was declared out for the rest of the game after undergoing a concussion test.

Predictably, Joyner tried to spin his version to make his actions look less egregious.

“I did not know he was going to slide,” he said. “I thought he was going to give another move. It was a bang-bang play. My intent was never to hurt Teddy.”

The Vikings weren’t buying it.

“He’s full of crap,” left guard Brandon Fusco said.

Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn had a more tempered reaction. He noted that defensive backs sometimes face a difficult judgment call on when to hit a quarterback. But Munnerlyn hated the result like everyone else.

“I wouldn’t say that guy tried to hurt Teddy on purpose,” Munnerlyn said. “I hope not. But at the same time, we try to play the game within the rules. We knew the hit was kind of questionable.”

Joyner seemed sincere in expressing his feelings toward Bridgewater. They played at rival high schools and he said their parents know each other.

His version of the hit was downright laughable, though.

“The way I saw it, he was going to try and give another move,” Joyner said. “When I took my shot, he went for the slide. If you look at the play, it definitely wasn’t an intentionally dirty play. I actually pulled up. It wasn’t helmet to helmet. It’s just football. Stuff like that happens sometimes.”

He’s right, cheap shots happen sometimes.

The reaction from the Vikings spoke volumes. They were livid, but they didn’t retaliate with a hot-headed penalty that could have cost them the game. They controlled their emotions, which isn’t an easy thing to do after seeing their starting quarterback on the ground.

That showed a level of maturity as a team.

“We’re a disciplined football team, we do things right,” Zimmer said. “That’s why we are the least penalized team in the league, because we play by the rules. Just because other teams don’t do it, doesn’t mean we’re going to do it.”

No effort required to read between those lines.


Chip Scoggins