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Brett Favre Returns to Football Again, Er, Again-Again

Ah, here we are again. Once again, on the Tuesday before the Vikings second preseason game football just got a lot more interesting because Brett Favre unretired (yes, again) to play quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings (yes, again). There were months of speculation, there were rumors, there were dire predictions and there were lots, and lots of jokes—but here we are once again, with Brett Favre.

I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think I could write about this with a template. All the important stuff would stay the same, I could just change the dates and some of the details. In fact, I strongly considered simply reposting the piece I wrote last year about Favre’s signing. However, on rereading it, I discovered that, even though the pertinent details about Brett Favre were more or less the same, my opinion about him had undergone at bit of a change.

Turns out, a year ago I wasn’t quite sold on Mr. Favre. In my defense, his year with the New York Jets was not the sort of thing that would ignite Super Bowl dreams. But his 2009 season with Minnesota Vikings made me a believer. I remember the moment with almost crystal clarity when I was watching the Vikings play and suddenly realized I was screaming, “Yeah, go Brett! Go Brett!!!” I stopped mid-scream I was so surprised. The real kicker (yes, the pun is intentional) was that it was still preseason. He endeared himself to me, a hardened cynic, just that fast. Good thing he doesn’t sell Amway.

So yes, this season I’ve already planted my skeptical Scandinavian butt firmly on the Favre bandwagon—I staked out my seat early.

But for as much as things seem the same, with Favre swinging into Minnesota just one day shy of the day he arrived last August, there are a lot of notable differences. Probably the biggest difference is that both Favre and his teammates have a better idea of what they are getting from one another. I honestly do not care how many millions of dollars the Wilfs throw at the guy, Brett Favre is worth every penny on several levels. Here are a few of them.

  • Good to great. Having Favre under center immediately elevates the Vikings offense from good to down right dangerous. The guy reads the blitz like nobody I’ve ever seen, adjusting on the fly, and audibling out of doomed plays—and that was before he was 40-years-old. Now, with 20 years of experience, there is nothing he hasn’t seen. That kind of knowledge is invaluable and enables the offense to take advantage of situations that might otherwise have cost them.
  • “Do or do not. There is no try.” Brett Favre is like Yoda**, he really is the Jedi master who brings out the best in his teammates. I can’t tell you how many times last year I read or heard about Favre sending Harvin or Rice a text telling them about some film they should watch because he thought it would help them. He operates like an extra coach helping to develop the young players on the team. When you consider the youth of most of his offensive weapons it’s apparent that that is the kind of investment that can benefit the Vikings for years to come. The gift that keeps on giving, if you will.
  • Cash money. Brett Favre means money. Period. People are excited about getting to see him play and they buy tickets which means no local media blackouts for the Minnesota faithful and it means that those attending the games are buying concessions, spending money in the merchandise tent, and patronizing local businesses before the game. Not only that, his jersey is still one of the top selling jerseys of all NFL merchandise—his name on gear is like a direct line of revenue. And, if he propels the Vikings to another winning season, it helps the Wilfs gain greater traction for new stadium discussion with the Minnesota legislature. This guy equals cash for a whole lot of people.
  • I want it all and I want it now. With the current Vikings roster you can’t swing a cat without hitting a Pro Bowler. The Vikings are thick with talent, but some of that talent is aging and thinking about retirement, like Pat Williams. We have heard the dread term “rebuilding year” so often that it is almost hard to believe we’re in a year where the team is built, but it is built—and it is built to win now. I include coaches because Leslie Frazier (probably) will be a head coach somewhere next year and some of the staff will likely go with him. With the Vikings current player and coaching roster Favre isn’t the star, he’s part of the mother-freaking constellation.

Well, it was several months in the making, but I have to say, I think I like Brett Favre’s 2010 arrival in Minnesota may lead to an even better season than last year. Don’t burst my bubble.

*Just in case you’re curious how suspicious I was a year ago https://chinspeaks.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/favre-fest-is-all-thanks-to-his-daughter/

**I have a deep and amazingly geeky affection for Star Wars (but only Episodes 4-6, the others suck) so I assure you that I’m not using this comparison lightly.

This piece is also posted at http://www.dailynorseman.com/ and http://vikingsmix.com/ under my alter ego Skol Girl. She’s very focused on Vikings football. Can you tell?

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

 

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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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It’s Not Right, But It’s Legal

With the early summer sun shining and mini camps going on at Winter Park, it’s finally possible for me to dare to believe that football will be beginning, in earnest, in just about two months. The off-season feels longer every summer with stories about football and the Vikings few and far between. However, on and off, since the end of the 2009 season, Pat and Kevin Williams, stars of the Vikings defensive line, have been in the news as they continue to fight the 4-game suspensions the NFL handed down when they tested positive for a banned substance.

If nothing else, the StarCaps debacle has been profitable for the lawyers and educational for the public. Way back in the summer of 2008 Pat and Kevin Williams and three players from the New Orleans Saints tested positive for bumetanide in a standard drug screening. Bumetanide, a diuretic, is banned by the NFL because it could be used to mask the use of steroids. However, as anyone who has ever experienced fluid retention might tell the NFL, diuretics can also be used to shed water weight. And, being big, chubby guys with weight clauses in their contracts, that’s the reason Pat and Kevin gave for taking StarCaps diet pills.

So the lines were drawn. The NFL wanted to suspend the players saying that they are responsible for what they put in their bodies regardless of the fact that bumetanide was not listed anywhere as an ingredient in StarCaps. The players felt they were being portrayed as dopers when they were simply trying to lose weight. The legal battle focused on personnel law regarding workplace drug testing. Eventually, the courts ruled for the NFL and the NFL has been trying to make sure that players aren’t ever again allowed to legally challenge suspensions this way. However, an injunction remains in place allowing Pat and Kevin to play the 2010 season while they appeal their case.

As this case has dragged on, it’s begun to feel like a case of the millionaire players chafing at restrictions laid out by the billionaire owners, focusing on loopholes in workplace law. But it seems to me that there is a bigger issue that isn’t being talked about, an issue of ethics rather than legality.

According to Brian Murphy’s reports in St. Paul’s Pioneer Press last year, the NFL was aware as early as November 2006 that StarCaps contained bumetanide even though bumetanide was not listed as a StarCaps ingredient. When prescribed by a physician, bumetanide is used to treat congestive heart failure and renal disease.  Further toxicology testing showed that, not only was bumetanide present in StarCaps, but the levels at which it was present met or exceeded prescription levels. By it’s own admission, the NFL knew that StarCaps contained therapeutic levels of a controlled substance and their only move toward player safety regarding StarCaps was to say that NFL players were prohibited from endorsing StarCaps.

Even if protecting players’ health in the hard-hitting NFL seems like a contradiction in terms that’s right up there with military intelligence, it can’t be overlooked that the NFL knew a potentially harmful substance was in StarCaps and, apparently, did nothing. They didn’t promote the use of StarCaps or allow their players to endorse StarCaps, but there’s also no evidence that the NFL reported their findings to the Food and Drug Administration or any other government regulatory agency.

Vikings fans don’t have to look back too far to remember the tragedy that can come from mixing heat, exertion, and diet pills. That combination contributed to the heat stroke that killed Vikings player Korey Stringer in 2001.

But supposing you don’t care about big, burly football players trying to drop weight because of their contracts, consider some of the people who might use diet pills. There are the teenage girls with body image issues, mothers trying to lose baby weight, people going to high school reunions, guys going through a divorce, guys going through a mid-life crisis, debutants walking the red carpet, women who are getting married, mothers whose daughters are getting married, people nervous about bathing suit season… Well, there are a lot of potential diet pill users. So, in withholding the information that StarCaps contained bumetanide, the NFL withheld information that could have damaged the health of anyone who might have used StarCaps, not just millionaire football players.

While the NFL may not have done anything illegal, to me, there is something distinctly smarmy about not releasing the information that StarCaps was tainted with bumetanide, an issue all but lost in the legal proceedings.

This post is also posted at http://www.vikingsmix.com under my alter ego Skol Girl. And, as a plus, vikingsmix.com has links to Minnesota Vikings news stories and other blogs.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2010 in 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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Favre Fest Is All Thanks to His Daughter

Apparently, the Vikings fans who are in the grips of Favre Mania have his daughter to thank. Yes, Brett Favre’s 10-year-old daughter, Breleigh, cried when she found out her dad had said no to signing with the Vikings. She wanted to see her daddy win one more Super Bowl. What little girl wouldn’t want her father to win another Super Bowl? I guess in some places that wish outranks ponies.

So, when Coach Brad Childress called Favre once more to see if there was anything on God’s green earth that could persuade Favre to sign with the Minnesota Vikings, Favre jumped at the second chance. And the $25 million that his two-year contract is worth. Isn’t it nice when you can make your children’s dreams come true and get millions of dollars?

Yesterday Brett Favre flew into Minnesota on a sleek private jet and was chauffered to Winter Park by the head coach himself*. The sun was shining and fans lined the way cheering and waving at the future hall of famer. Ticket sales beat all previous records and orders for jerseys sporting Favre’s name and iconic number 4 on purple have exceeded expectations.

Clearly, I’m a bit twitchy about Mr. Favre. Not only am I now going to cheer for the guy who was once the bain of the NFC North, the guy also has a deep affection for drama and a tendency to be a diva. He has a rotator cuff injury in his throwing shoulder that was discovered after the surgery to repair his torn biceps tendon in the same arm. He’s turing 40 in October and in a violent sport like football, that is more like 60. And, small but pivotal point, he bases his decisions on whether or not he should play on the whims of a 10-year-old girl. Gee, what is there to be nervous about.

However, I hope we can bank on that famed ego of his to get the Vikings deep into play-off territory. You can’t see it, but I’m trying to cross my fingers. Not easy to type that way, but I’m trying to show solidarity.

So that is the bad to iffy side of Favre being a Viking. Clearly, there are lots of good things about the former Packer donning purple. As the sports writers have been harping since last summer, Minnesota is a good fit for Favre. Here’s why:

  • First, the Vikings play a west coast style offense similar to what Favre played when he was with the Green Bay Packers, so unlike his experience with the New York Jets, he won’t have to learn a whole different style of play. I’m not saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but being the same type of offense Favre is used to enables him to go straight to learning the Vikings playbook and developing a rhythm with the rest of the offense.
  • Second, with Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor to hand the ball to, Favre won’t have to strain his 40-year-old arm constantly passing because he has no running backs to hand it to. Despite the potential of Percy Harvin, the coaching staff isn’t going to ignore the running game that has been their game winner for the last two years, not when they have an athletic new center (John Sullivan) and a huge upgrade on lineman (Phil Loadholt) to block for their star running backs.
  • Third, when Favre does throw the ball he has a nice variety of recievers to catch it. Visanthe Shianco really started coming into his own last season as a receiving tightend. The Vikings believe that Percy Harvin, when he isn’t lighting up his bong, will prove an explosive receiver for short to mid-range and long passes, his ability to run after the catch being particularly prized. Sidney Rice’s height makes him a threat to defenders, so long as he can keep his feet in bounds and hang onto the ball. Add in Bernard “Gazelle” Berrien and Bobby Wade, and the opposing defenses will have a hard time knowing who to cover.
  • Fourth, the Minnesota Vikings defense is a thing of beauty. Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Tyrell Johnson… Sigh… This last Pro Bowl, half the defensive players on the field for the NFC were Vikings. They know how to create turn overs, how to wreak havoc on an offensive line and get to the quarterback, and how to stall opposing offenses. The biggest problem they had last season was fatigue because the Vikings offense didn’t spend enough time on the field to give the defense a breather.

So today, as the rain falls and the tornado sirens wail, let us all hope that Favre Mania doesn’t end the same way the hype about Star Wars Episode 1 did, with all of us wishing George Lucas had left well-enough alone. For the sake of my team, I’m hoping that Favre’s daughter is right and that her daddy has one more Super Bowl win in him.

*Incidentally, when Jared Allen signed with the Minnesota Vikings Pat and Kevin Williams picked him up at the airport. I don’t recall any reports that Allen flew in on a private jet, and Childress certainly wasn’t there giving him his obesience when he arrived. And, Allen signed a contract for several years and attended training camp.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2009 in Brett Favre, Football

 

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