Former Vikings defensive end Brian Robison signed a one-day contract with the team and held an articulate, emotional and lengthy retirement press conference yesterday at TCO Performance Center. I was unable to be there, but wish I had been, as RB-Rob has been one of my favorite Vikings to cover in the times I have been writing about the Vikings since 2009. Congratulations to Brian on a well-deserved end to his 11-year career in Purple!
Head coach Mike Zimmer started the press conference explaining how much he enjoyed coaching B-Rob, and then general manager Rick Spielman explained what a pro’s pro Robison has been through Spielman’s time with the Vikings (he said the team moved up in the draft to select Robison in the fourth round of Rick’s first draft in Minnesota).
And then Brian took the stage to tell the origin story to his football career. It was a great re-telling of his early days in Texas as an adolescent football player, when he learned that not all his dreams of being a running back and linebacker lined up with his skills, abilities or coaches’ plans for him. It was a story of learning, hard work and team work that began in his early career and was on full display in his time as a Viking, where he took two pay cuts and saw his starting job taken away late in his career.
“The NFL is a business and you have to move past the bitterness,” Robison said to the media and a number of his current and former teammates in attendance. “You have to move past all that and realize the business will never change. If you take it personal, we’re all going to get mad at some point or another.”
But B-Rob, as he was known by his teammates, was always in the game for the team to win. He spoke of his hard work, every day, and his desire to “embrace the grind” and come to work and make it fun for those around him. He never shied away (in his later years particularly) from teaching younger players the rules of the road at defensive end, just like Jared Allen did for him years earlier. And he did it (showing Danielle Hunter the ropes) even though it eventually meant that player taking his job.
Even though he was surprised by the team releasing him last season, he recognizes it now as the pathway to a new chapter in his life—which starts with more time with his family. He will spend plenty of time on the water fishing and even talking about fishing (his years as a roving reporter in the Vikings locker room for his “96 Questions” segments on TV have led to a YouTube series about fishing) and perhaps a budding broadcast career is in the offing.
Regardless, for the members of the media who were on hand for the presser, it was a reminder of just how available Robison was to them his entire career. After games and practices when a lot of players might not want to make the effort to stand before for the microphones, B-Rob always embraced that grind, as well. Even after the 2009 NFC Championship game, which Robison mentioned with continued regret:
“We didn’t get beat. We lost it,” Robison said. “That team should’ve brought a Super Bowl championship to the state of Minnesota. But it just didn’t happen. It wasn’t meant to be.”
B-Rob was always a stand-up guy (and a winner of the media’s Korey Stringer Good Guy award)—and he treat me that way, as well. Early in my career of covering the team for cbssports.com, Robison was the subject of unfortunately aimed kick of an offensive lineman that was caught on tape and blew up on social media. Facing reporters in the locker room that week, he explained how when he got to his phone after the game it was exploding with notices on twitter and everything else. Before I could stop myself, I, still a twitter neophyte, blurted out: “You’re trending!” To the vast enjoyment of the rest of the reporters.
Robison could have taken that moment and easily turned it on me with a scowl, and unpleasant retort of his own, instead he smiled and laughed with reporters and took the ungraceful spot he was in and handled it with grace. I have forever been grateful.
Thanks, Brian, for all your years and games with this team (he only missed three in 11 seasons) and for always being accessible, no matter how difficult the situation. You were a great player, a great teammate and a great human being to have around these parts and to be called one of our own in Minnesota. Hope to see you back here often.