Blog Page 109

If you wanted to read every word said or written by Chris Kluwe over the last few days, then you have certainly had your work cut out for you, as it seems like he has found the time to speak with just about every media outlet north of the equator.  With that being said, if you are going to read just one, make sure it is Tom Pelissero’s (we miss you, Tom) one-on-one with Kluwe at USA Today.

Kluwe has not backed down from the allegation he let loose on Deadspin two days ago, insisting that special teams coach Mike Priefer had Kluwe cut due to bigotry.  I think you are all aware that I think Kluwe was cut for other reasons, but I also don’t think Kluwe is a liar.  The Vikings are attempting to find out.

The Vikings announced yesterday that they have returned two big-time lawyers to oversee an investigation.  Their statement:

The Minnesota Vikings have retained two partners of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P. to complete an independent review of yesterday’s allegations by Chris Kluwe.

Former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Chris Madel will lead the investigation.

“It is extremely important for the Vikings organization to react immediately and comprehensively with an independent review of these allegations,” said Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf.

Magnuson, who is currently a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P. and teaches at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, is highly-regarded in Minnesota and throughout the country. He has more than 35 years of practice, including over two years (2008-10) as the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Madel is the Chair of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P.’s Government and Internal Investigations Group, and has led numerous high-profile investigations, including the extensively publicized internal investigation of the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. Madel has also been selected as the Minnesota Lawyer’s “Attorney of the Year” for 2011, 2012, and 2013, and is the first attorney to win the award for three consecutive years.

“This is a highly sensitive matter that we as an organization will address with integrity,” said Vikings Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Warren. “Eric and Chris have stellar reputations in both the local and national legal community. They have handled numerous cases involving a wide range of issues, and we are confident they will move swiftly and fairly in completing this investigation.”

Robins, Kaplan’s investigation has already begun and will include interviews with current and former members of the Vikings organization.

While I understand the need for the Vikings to conduct this investigation, with a major blow to their image hanging in the balance, I personally think this whole thing has gotten a little out of hand.  I think Kluwe is hypocritical and misguided in his assumptions, in his assessment as to why he was cut, and NFL history is all the evidence a courtroom should need to give Priefer the benefit of the doubt.

Last offseason, Kluwe was not the only contract-year player put in a tough spot, especially after Rick Spielman publicly declared his intent to create a youth movement within the Vikings roster.

Kevin Williams was forced to take a paycut and a year off his contract, with Sharrif Floyd being drafted in the first round as his presumptive replacement.  Antoine Winfield was released due to his high salary number and age, with Xavier Rhodes being drafted to help the team try and account for his departure.  Percy Harvin, also entering his contract season, was traded to Seattle with Cordarrelle Patterson being drafted to fill the void left by Harvin both on offense and within Preifer’s return unit.

If you think an NFL punter isn’t replaceable then you haven’t been paying attention.  If you think an expensive, regressing, injured and aging punter can’t isn’t expendable then you really haven’t been paying attention.  Moves are made in professional sports, particularly in the NFL, all the time that resemble exactly what happened to Kluwe.  In fact, more often than not a player is released or traded before his contract is up, that is just part of the business.

Kluwe, a full season after his release, still seems genuinely floored that he wasn’t allowed to play out his contract.

If his surprise is real, then he has certainly not been paying attention.

Seattle’s offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton all have been reported to have interviews scheduled for the vacant head coaching position with the Minnesota Vikings.

No college head coaches have generated much buzz around Winter Park other than Bill O’Brien and Jim Mora… and talks quickly died down with them after reports surfaced that the Vikings had reached out to them.

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As far as the Pro Bowl is concerned it appeared that Cordarrelle Patterson’s explosive rookie season was poorly timed.  The NFL has eliminated kickoffs during the, umm, “contest” and that goes into effect for the first time this year.  That, in turn, means they returned the return specialist position from the Pro Bowl roster.

Patterson was pretty easily the NFL’s best kick returner all season long, but the coaching staff limited his offensive snaps until later in the season where he showed he could be just as explosive with the ball in his hands.  With Antonio Brown needing to be replaced on the Pro Bowl roster, Patterson joins Adrian Peterson for the honor as an alternate, and should also get a chance to return some punts.

The teams will not be split up by conference this year and will instead be determined via a special drafting process.

Patterson has some stiff competition for Offensive Rookie of the Year, mainly Keenan Allen and Eddie Lacy, but the Pro Bowl nod is a nice way of honoring a rookie that broke numerous records and showed dominance in multiple areas of the game.

Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson is well respected around the league and within the Vikings organization.  Time and again his players praise his approach, the media marvels at his command, and results show up in the form of Adrian Peterson’s rushing totals.

With Leslie Frazier fired, however, Davidson’s future with the team is as uncertain as any of his coworkers’ and the Atlanta Falcons wanted to give him the opportunity to bolt early.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, Atlanta requested an interview with Davidson Thursday, as they currently have a vacancy at his position.  The interesting part is that the Vikings denied their request and, by doing so, have greatly hindered his ability to find employment elsewhere.

At this time it is unclear what Minnesota’s motivations are for denying the request.  It is possible that Rick Spielman really wants to retain Davidson and hopes his new head coaching hire agrees.  It is not totally impossible that Davidson could get some consideration at a position of elevated responsibility such as Offensive Coordinator or Assistant Head Coach.

It is also entirely possible that Spielman is just being really conservative, maintaining rights to an asset of his, as some show of gamesmanship with an NFC opponent at the expense of an employee’s career potential.

Regardless of the motivations, Davidson is still a member of the Vikings, but the hammer will drop soon on a number of the team’s assistants and Davidson could very well end up being one of them.

We know that rookie punter Jeff Locke had very little time to interact with Chris Kluwe before Kluwe was released by the Vikings, and also had very little time to see special teams coordinator Mike Priefer interact with Kluwe.  Blair Walsh, who just finished his second season with the team, did spend a full season working with Kluwe and was presumably around during some of Kluwe’s alleged scenes of verbal abuse and bigotry.

Both Locke and Walsh, however, stood by their coach following Kluwe’s allegations posted at Deadspin.

Locke took to Twitter to lend his support.

“In my short time with the Vikings,” he wrote, “Coach Priefer has treated me with respect and has helped as a player and person.  I have never witnessed any actions or statements by Coach Priefer similar to those described in the recent Deadspin article.

As transcribed by Kevin Seifert at ESPNWalsh was a little more combative with his words, and it looks like he may be a tad upset with his former holder.

“I have had countless conversations and interactions with coach Priefer, and I personally can attest to his integrity and character,” Walsh said in a statement he released directly to reporters. “His professionalism in the workplace is exemplary, and I firmly believe that my teammates would whole-heartedly agree. The allegations made today are reprehensible and totally not compatible with what Mike Priefer stands for. …

“In my time here at Minnesota, Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier have exemplified true leadership. Contrary to Chris’ statements, they have promoted a workplace environment that was conducive for success. At no time did I ever feel suppressed or that I could not be myself.

“I firmly stand behind Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier, and Mike Priefer.”

Some will aplaude Kluwe’s bravery for posting the article and exposing his coach.  Others will say Walsh and Locke were brave for standing up for their coach despite certain criticism from a significant portion of society.  The debate is sure to be emotional and heated.  Kluwe, however, reiterated on Thursday night that he is not worried about the fallout while talking with Chip Scoggins at the Star Tribune.

“It’s one of those things where this is what happened,” he said.  “I realize there will be people that say, ‘This is just sour grapes. He’s upset that he got cut.’”

 

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