Locker room chemistry in the NFL is underrated. Look at Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, who yesterday confronted teammates and nearly fought a special teams coach during . Dez Bryant, his fiery teammate, stepped in to stop Hardy from taking the tirade too far, but the damage was already done. Reporters are questioning Jerry Jones for signing a player with a history of domestic violence, and Ian O’ Connor of ESPN believes the Cowboys should suspend Hardy for his actions.
Incidents like that will only divide locker rooms, and the tension’s building outside of Dallas, too. In Philadelphia, one player entered the locker room after last night’s loss to the Carolina Panthers screaming, specifically telling his teammates to catch the football. Eagles receivers dropped seven passes last night, some of which may have kept the team competitive in an important conference game. It’s a problem that’s affecting teams negatively, on and off the field. The Cowboys have lost four straight, the Eagles are 3-4, and they’re losing ground on the division-leading New York Giants.
For the Vikings, it’s a much different story. They’re 4-2 after an impressive comeback victory on the road against the Lions and look like a team that enjoys playing football together. They’re young —with a number of rookies contributing on both sides of the ball — and the mix of veteran leadership and Mike Zimmer’s coaching mentality is creating an environment players want to be a part of. Just look at this clip after Stefon Diggs’s electrifying 36-yard touchdown grab:
Mike Wallace appears fired up as he speaks to Joe Berger and Matt Kalil, likely as a result of their sound blocking on the Diggs touchdown. Diggs overhears the excitement and rushes over to give Berger a hug. It was a candid moment caught by the Fox cameras and one that shows the connection at every level of this roster, from the veteran starters to the rookie sensations. Teddy Bridgewater, not unaccustomed to these interactions, spoke to the “Diggs Effect” after the game:
“You have to love that guy because he’s so energetic and so excited about playing in the NFL,” Bridgewater said. “Even (Saturday) at our walkthrough, when everyone was at walking tempo, he was running at full speed. That’s just how he is.”