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My Vikings Training Camp Wish List

It’s been six long months since the Minnesota Vikings lost to the New Orleans Saints on January 24, 2010. It might take the edge off of my football withdrawal if I could get into baseball, but when I’m craving smash mouth football complete with calf-roping antics, baseball doesn’t quite do it for me.

But now it’s late July and soon, tantalizingly soon, Minnesota Vikings training camp will start up again and we’ll get to see what kind of a shot at redemption the veteran-heavy team has for the coming season. For a football-deprived fan like myself, it feels like Christmas in July. Truly. I’m filled with as much joy and anticipation for the start of training camp as I was when I was seven and hoping for a Cabbage Patch Kid.

So, in the spirit of Christmas, I’m making out my wish list for the coming season. How weird and wonderful would it be if a sleigh pulled by eight tiny linebackers landed on my rooftop and a jolly giant like, say, Pat Williams hopped down the chimney to deliver everything on my list? Well, a girl can dream.

Wish #1

Doubtless, this is at the top of many people’s lists, but it would be so very nice if Brett Favre came back to the Vikings for another season. Kind of a no-brainer wish. However, the chances of Brett Favre making a return in time for or during training camp isn’t likely given his well-documented disdain for training camp. Still, this is a wish list, not a likely list—might as well aim high.

Wish #2

Adrian Peterson is a dynamic, hard-working running back. Every time he gets the ball he pours his heart and soul into trying to make something happen. Here’s a thought:  How about you hang onto the ball. While not as flashy as a break-away run into the end zone, reducing fumbles and turnovers probably would have won that NFC championship game against the Saints.

Wish #3

He’s big and he, occasionally, shows flashes of ability that validate the Vikings decision to keep him around, but I would dearly love to see Bryant McKinnie play up to his potential every game, not one in five. If Favre does return, then, for the love of Zeus, protect the guy! Last year Julius Peppers pushed 6’8” 330lb Bryant McKinnie around like McKinnie was on castors. I don’t know if that means Peppers is jus that good or if McKinnie is just that lazy. During the off-season Peppers signed with the Chicago Bears meaning the Vikings will have to face him at least twice next season.

Wish #4

Please, oh please, don’t let Brad Childress’s decision to bring in Rhys Lloyd mess up Ryan Longwell’s head or kicking consistency. While bringing in Lloyd to pin opposing offenses against their end zones is great, Longwell says kick-offs give him a chance to get a feel for field conditions before he kicks for points. Longwell is money in the bank, don’t throw him off his game.

Wish #5

I love linebackers. Leber, Greenway, Farwell, they make me smile. But, and I don’t say this lightly, I really, really love E.J. Henderson. Most of his highlights show him flying Super Man style to make a tackle. Who doesn’t love seeing that? And with a healthy Henderson at middle, I like the Vikings chances of forcing three-and-outs much better. So, here’s hoping that E.J. Henderson is back to his pre-injury form and that his season isn’t cut short with an injury the way it has been for the past two years.

Wish #6

Maybe it’s because I added his jersey to my collection, or maybe it’s because I like seeing an under-dog come out on top, but I would dearly love to see Sidney Rice build on the amazing season he had last year. A participant at Larry Fitzgerald’s summer training camp, last season Rice debunked the theory that he was a draft bust. Let’s hope that this season, regardless of who is ultimately playing quarterback for the Vikings, he proves that last season’s performance is just the start of many good things.

Well, a football fan could keep wishing all day, but I think six is a good place to stop. Something tells me that as the Vikings training camp heats up there will be plenty of new things to wish for.

*This piece is also posted at http://www.vikingsmix.com under my other alias, Skol Girl.

http://vikingsmix.com/2010/07/training-camp-wish-list.html

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Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football

 

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Brooking No Opposition

Was it Abraham Lincoln who said, “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”? Too bad Dallas Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking didn’t embrace that saying. Instead, following the Minnesota Vikings fourth touchdown pass, this time to Visanthe Shiancoe,  Brooking said the Vikings showed a lack of class, running up the score when Minnesota’s victory was secure. Apparently, despite talking trash about the Vikings for executing a winning game-plan and failing to help his team neutralize the scoring threat of Brett Favre and company, Keith Brooking is a really classy guy. Yes, he’s the kind of Boy Scout who followed Brett Favre to the sideline after that touchdown, making threats to Favre’s back the whole way.

Brookings was hardly the sole person to show the Vikings a decided lack of respect heading into Sunday’s game, just the last and loudest one to voice it. Absent from the cameras during their bye week while the media gushed about the Cowboys’ decisive victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round, it seemed everyone assumed the Cowboys would stomp the Vikings and face the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game. And, even the normally deadpan Brad Childress stated how sick they were getting about hearing how the Cowboys were going to ride in from Texas on their wave of momentum and just roll over the Vikings.

But, rather than counter all the pro-Cowboy sentiment flying around with words, Childress focused his team in what appeared to be the spirit of another former president, Teddy Roosevelt. The Vikings may have talked softly during the last week, but on Sunday they carried a very big stick. And, they used it to beat the Cowboys silly.

To say that the Vikings beat the Cowboys on every game front doesn’t quite do justice to the total ass-kicking that they dealt the Cowboys in Sunday’s showdown. The Vikings absolutely dominated every aspect of the game, offense, defense, special teams.

It wasn’t as if the Cowboys weren’t putting in the effort on Sunday, they just didn’t seem to have enough effort to win. They had some success completing short passes to Jason Witten, kicking the ball deep so the Vikings couldn’t return it, and sacking Favre three times. However good that was, their effort was no match for the Vikings, who prevented the Cowboys from scoring even one touchdown, or getting decent field position on a kick return, or keeping Favre in the pocket.

On Monday as I watched Sunday’s game highlights, the thing that struck me was that, while there were clearly a few Vikings that had an uber spectacular game (Sidney Rice, Ray Edwards, Ben Leber spring to mind), overall, the entire team played great, no goats to be found. In light of the entire team’s brilliant performance, that final touchdown to Shiancoe was simply the product of a tremendous, sustained, four-quarter effort from the Vikings. And it seems like that should be a measure of respect and class in the NFL—preparing for an equal opponent all week and playing them all four quarters as if they could rally at any time—not playing down to save a whiny linebacker’s feelings.

*This piece is also posted at vikingsmix.com under my alter ego Skol Girl, where you can find Vikings-related news stories and blogs.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football

 

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Decking the Halls in Purple: Shopping for a Vikings Jersey

With the Vikings fresh from one of their most decisive victories of the season, crushing divisional rivals the Chicago Bears, and maintaining a three game lead at the top of the NFC North division, Vikings fans are staring down the very real prospect of witnessing that much touted deep playoff run. Thus, the question on every Vikings fan’s mind is, “What am I going to wear?”

Okay, that could just be me, but with the holidays and the playoffs fast approaching it doesn’t hurt to find out if the Vikings fans on your list are looking for more wardrobe options to show their purple pride—especially those band-wagon fans who cheer for the Vikings only when a winning season is guaranteed. I’ve devoted some thought to this question because, much as I love my John Randle jersey, with so many talented players on the 2009 Vikings roster it seems like a crying shame not to support current players too. However that leaves me with the problem of deciding whose jersey I want to add to my purple collection. Here are some strategies for choosing a jersey that I hope helps you choose a jersey for yourself or the Minnesota Vikings fans on your list.

Superstar! Like Mary Katherine Gallagher, SNL’s irrepressible Catholic school-girl, some players are just superstars. They are full of flash and talent, they break records, and they are fan favorites. Obvious Vikings superstars include Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, and Jared Allen. And, as the obvious superstars, they sell the most jerseys so you might want to shop early to make sure stores have their jerseys in the size you’re looking for.

Vikings to the end. I don’t like to share, this is the reason why it makes me twitch when the players I cheer for sign with other teams. One way of getting around that problem is to wear the jersey of a player who is going to retire a Viking. This year that includes Antoine Winfield and Jim Kleinsasser, both of whom signed contracts last off-season to guarantee that they will end their playing days as Minnesota Vikings.

Workhorses. Although some players possess the kind of talent that makes football look easy, football is a team effort. For every superstar on the field racking up points and stats, there are several players doing unlauded work to make those plays possible. The running game wouldn’t be anything without blockers. No matter how MVP the quarterback, he can’t do much if his offensive line doesn’t protect him. And the pass rushers wouldn’t have a pass to rush if the nose tackle wasn’t stuffing the run. A list of those players would include Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Naufahu Tahi, Jim Kleinsasser, and Pat Williams—to name a few. Oh, and one of the best third-down backs in the league, Chester Taylor.

Up and comers. Maybe you, or someone you’re shopping for likes to be the first to support the team’s youngest players. This year Sidney Rice (third season) is silencing critics who, last year, suggested he was a draft dud. Percy Harvin is tearing up the field and proving he was worth the risk of drafting. John Sullivan, now in his second year, is helping to keep Favre from taking so many punishing sacks. Tyrell Johnson and Asher Allen have been in the rotation since Winfield has been out with a broken foot—both show real promise.

Pick your position. Another way of choosing whose jersey to wear is to choose by offense, defense, or special teams. If your fan doesn’t have a specific player in mind but loves running backs, safeties, or linemen, you have a starting place. Me, I love linebackers (E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway, Ben Leber) because I grew up watching Scott Studwell. Others love the receivers who race down the field, make flying leaps, and catch passes that don’t seem catchable (Rice, Harvin, Bernard Berrien). Vikings special teams is dramatically improved from where it was last year (Ryan Longwell, Heath Farwell, Darius Reynaud). And, this year’s defensive line (Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Ray Edwards) feels destined to go down in history alongside the famed Purple People Eaters.

I just like him. Some players are just likeable. It may be for their stats, their personality, or even their off-field charitable work. Last year, for me, that player was Bobby Wade. But there are plenty of current candidates too. E.J. Henderson, in addition to becoming the E.J. he was before last year’s season-ending injury, he uses his foundation to reach out to urban youth. Steve Hutchinson hosts a Thanksgiving meal every year at UM Amplatz Children’s Hospital for patients and their families. Artis Hicks supports the Ronald McDonald House charities. Adrian Peterson has his All Day foundation. Chad Greenway supports breast cancer awareness. Bernard Berrien teams with the Second Harvest organization to combat hunger. The list goes on and on, but my point is that, in this season of giving and charity you can also chose a player to support based on what they support.

Well, I hope this gives you some ideas as you set forth on your jersey-shopping adventure. To be honest, I’ve convinced myself that I need a jersey for just about everyone on the roster so I hope this worked out better for you than it did for me.

Happy holidays and Purple Pride!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2009 in Brett Favre, Football, Uncategorized

 

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Lovesong for the Linebackers

Was it luck or skill that helped the Minnesota Vikings carry the day in their 27 to 13 victory against the Detroit Lions? I’m not sure. Stylish or not, a win is a win. And, with a schedule that gets more challenging as the season progresses, they absolutely needed to win yesterday.

We could talk all day about what needs to improve so the Vikings can win against teams that don’t have losing records. In fact, looking at the sports section of the paper today, it was hard to believe the Vikings had come away with a win, the tenor of the articles was just that somber. They were filled with gloom and doom about the shaky future of the team if the Vikings continue to allow competitors to dominate the first half, run the ball against them, sack Brett Favre, and stuff the run.

All of that is true. Resting the team through the first half so they are fresh for a second half comeback isn’t a sound method for winning football games. However, I’d like to take a minute to talk about what went right during yesterday’s victory over Detroit—the linebackers.

I think my favorite play yesterday was Chad Greenway’s second interception from Detroit’s rookie quarterback Matt Stafford. Greenway, in what seemed like penance for an earlier missed tackle, played memorable, aggressive football. He had two interceptions, a fumble recovery, and three tackles and an assist to his credit, and yet, when interviewed following the game, Greenway was still beating himself up for that one missed tackle. He’s hardworking, he’s humble, and he gets the job done. One can’t ignore the demoralizing impact that those interceptions and turnovers had on the Detroit Lions during the second half, and how it helped turn the tide for the Vikings. If ever there was a guy who had earned himself a Klondike bar, it is Chad Greenway.

E.J. Henderson is back in a big way. With his mane of dreadlocks covering up his name it’s like he’s the undercover linebacker. The quietly menacing middle linebacker from Maryland racked up 27 tackles in just four games last year before his season was cut short with a foot injury. This year he has a sack and 15 tackles in just two games, seven of the tackles against Detroit. Healthy, he’s going to continue to do that voodoo that he does so well, punishing opposing offenses like nobody’s business. If Henderson doesn’t make it to the Pro Bowl, I’ll be very surprised.

With all the razzle-dazzle of Greenway and Henderson in the last two games Ben Leber is often the overlooked outside linebacker. But the guy is a solid and durable player, with 11 tackles and a sack assist already this season. In the previous three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Leber has missed only one game. Durability isn’t glitzy, but to see how strapped a team can be after losing a solid starting linebacker, one need only look to Chicago where they are scrambling to fill the void that Brian Urlacher’s season-ending wrist injury has caused the Bears.

Sure, Adrian Peterson is still the star and Percy Harvin is developing nicely under Brett Favre’s tutelage. Brett Favre, incidentally, is also the only quarterback in the NFC North who has yet to throw an interception—something for those lamenting the lack of deep plays to consider. But, for today, let’s give a little love to the linebackers, one of whom was instrumental in changing the direction of the Vikings game against the Lions and providing the win they needed.

This post and other Minnesota Vikings stories can be found at vikingsmix.com.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2009 in Football

 

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