Friday, August 28, 2015

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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.’”

 

Near the end of the 2012 NFL season I started heavily advocating for the Vikings to draft an elite punter prospect and part ways with one of the franchise’s all-time best, Chris Kluwe.  While I can’t speak for the Vikings front office and coaching staff, as I have no first-hand knowledge of their thought process, but I can say that my thought process had absolutely nothing to do with his stance on same-sex marriage.

Instead, I noticed a dip in his stats, as well as a decline in how his punts passed the “eye test” and thought his regression was pretty obvious.  On top of that he was aging, entering a contract year, in line to make a significant sum of money for a punter, and was coming off of surgery.  Those facts are enough to land many NFL players in the unemployment line whether or not they are outspoken civil rights advocates.

On Thursday, however, Chris Kluwe alleged that he was harassed by special teams coordinator Mike Priefer for his stance on gay rights.  The allegations were made in a big way, using the ever-popular Deadspin as his platform, and he did not seemingly hold anything back.  He concluded that his tenure with the Vikings ended because Priefer was a bigot, while Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman enabled the behavior by being cowards, and brought his release right back into the limelight after a full season without him has come and gone.

In the article, Kluwe details meetings where Frazier asked him to quiet down and text messages from Rick Spielman asking him to fly under the radar.  He also talks of Vikings P.R. gurus trying to keep him unaware of media requests.

The most damning allegations are against Priefer, however, who Kluwe claims went way overboard with his language.  He says that Priefer commented that Kluwe would burn in hell with “the gays” for defending them and expressed his disgust at the thought of two men kissing.

“We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows,” Kluwe claims Priefer said at the start of a specialists meeting.

Kluwe doesn’t dance around his intentions for writing the article.  He hopes to end Mike Priefer’s NFL career for good.

I find it interesting that Kluwe is trying to get a man fired for using controversial language and extreme rhetoric in a debate about a social issue.  After all, Kluwe was thrust into the national spotlight for doing exactly that on many, many occasions.  Many in this country consider the gay rights debate to be over, with guys like Priefer bigots in the truest sense, and will see no hypocrisy in Kluwe’s ways.

They see it as “eye for an eye.”

That could very well end up being the outcome, too, as Kluwe’s release of his article couldn’t be timed worse for those he accuses.  Leslie Frazier is unemployed and thought to be a strong possibility to run Tampa Bay’s defense, but the “coward” label may give Lovie Smith pause when considering his options.  Rick Spielman is trying to attract top-notch coaching candidates to his vacancy to save bring his franchise out of the cellar, but coaches usually aren’t too eager to run away with the circus.

Meanwhile, Priefer could very well end up on the outside of the Vikings organization, looking in.  The Vikings released a statement that said they are going to investigate Kluwe’s allegations and that they do not tolerate discrimination of any sort.  While the team officially reiterated that Kluwe was cut for no other reason than 0n-field performance, they also say they will take the allegations very seriously and that they will eventually have more to say on the matter.

For a guy that was thought to be someone the Vikings wanted to retain, and was even mentioned by some as a head coaching possibility, Priefer has a lot to lose if owner Zygi Wilf is as supportive to Kluwe’s cause as the article indicates. After losing his job in Minnesota and being unable to win a job in Oakland, however, Kluwe had little to lose by airing his feelings at this point.  Some might even argue he had something to gain.

Regardless of where anyone falls on the social issue of gay rights, it is inexcusable for a person in a position of power to belittle his employee for holding personal beliefs.  That isn’t a matter of opinion.  That is law.  For this reason, it seems likely that Priefer is in line for some sensitivity training, an attitude adjustment, and maybe even some job searching.

Priefer may have some defenses in his pocket, however, and the rest of this story has yet to unfold.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Priefer doesn’t flat out deny Kluwe’s accusations and move on, like some might expect, but instead takes to the media in an attempt to clear his name.

Maybe he won’t, though.  Maybe his superiors within the Vikings organization will tell him to “fly under the radar.”

And maybe he’ll listen.

UPDATE:  Well, that was fast.  No sooner did I get this article posted did Mike Priefer issue the following statement regarding the situation:

“I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe. 

I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member. 

The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way. As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.

The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children. 

I will continue to work hard for the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family and all of our loyal fans.”

Apparently I was wrong, he did decide to go the complete denial route.

 

 

Some, like me, think Erin Henderson played well enough in recent years to keep him on the roster beyond 2013.  Unfortunately for him, it is no longer his play people are concerned with, and he has likely played his last down for the Vikings.

Henderson was arrested, for the second time in two months, for driving drunk.  Around the middle of the New Years Day, Henderson drove his SUV off the road, through some grass and a parking lot, and then came to a spot thanks to the help of some trees.  According to USA Today, Henderson was alone in the vehicle and was not injured.

Henderson was booked at the Carver County Jail with charges of 2nd and 3rd degree DWI and test refusal. possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, and violation of a limited drivers license.  He posted the $12,000 bail and was released with a court date set for March 3rd.  While the Vikings cannot make any veteran roster moves until after the Super Bowl it seems likely that they will release Henderson, eating only $250,000 of his signing bonus, and move on before his legal matters are resolved.

With a pair of incidents tainting Henderson’s season it is very likely that he will face league discipline.

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