For days, the buzz around the Vikings has been the potential that they would go big after a big wide receiver. On a percentage basis, about 99-and-change of that buzz centered around disgruntled Charger Vincent Jackson.
The Vikings brought in a big receiver Wednesday, but it wasn't Jackson. It was someone the Vikings coaching staff is familiar with – veteran Hank Baskett. Baskett practiced with the Vikings for the first time Wednesday … during his second stint in Minnesota.
Baskett was signed by the Vikings in 2006 as an undrafted free agent, but less than a month after signing, he was traded to the Eagles for veteran Billy McMullen, who was experienced in the offense Brad Childress was installing with the Vikings. It was a long, circuitous route back to Winter Park that included two stints with the Eagles and a Super Bowl appearance with the Colts last year.
He said that he was happy to see the tone of the Vikings locker room, which isn't in disarray like it is in Dallas, where players-only meetings have been held and panic seems to be the prevailing vibe. He said the vibe in the Vikings locker room is calm determination underscored by an angry resolve to right the ship.
"Everyone knows the Super Bowl isn't won in Week 1 or Week 2," Baskett said. "I definitely have a feel from just getting here that no one has let down. Guys are upset to be 0-2, but everyone still has high aspirations. As Coach (Brad Childress) has said, you crawl before you walk when you start winning."
Baskett's first stint with the Vikings included just a rookie minicamp and the early May minicamp in 2006, as Childress was in the process of dismantling the roster he inherited. Baskett was a player that was part of the rookie cattle call, but longtime Childress confidante Andy Reid, head coach of the Eagles, wanted Baskett as well. He offered veteran Billy McMullen, who could hit the ground running in the West Coast offense Childress brought to Minnesota. Baskett said he felt honored to be traded so quickly – the first of many career surprises to follow him.
"The fact the Philly traded for me said a lot," Baskett said. "I didn't know exactly what my role was going to be here. To be traded for, that was a good thing. As a rookie, an undrafted player, that's more motivation because you're going somewhere that really wants you if they're going to trade for you."
He said he didn't harbor any ill will toward the Vikings for their end of the trade, saying that, in his position as an undrafted free agent, he was advised to be respectful because you never know when you may end up back with that team again and you don't want to leave a bad taste in their mouth about having a relationship with you that ends bitterly.
"My dad always raised me to never burn any bridges," Baskett said. "You never know where you're going to end up, especially in this job. The fact that the Vikings have invited me back, that says a lot and I truly appreciate Coach Childress and the team for getting a second opportunity here."
Family is important to Baskett and his has grown in the last couple of years. He married Playboy playmate and reality TV star Kendra Wilkinson and they welcomed a baby last year. He said that it is difficult at times with his wife's celebrity and his required camera time on her self-titled reality show. He said there are probably more people who recognize him from those appearances than from his football career, but he said he and Kendra have an understanding about each other's professions, the requirements of both and the separation those careers require.
"My wife is a celebrity, but I've stated it clear from the beginning – she's a celebrity and I'm a football player," Baskett said. "I think people may know me more (for her reality show), but I'd definitely love to come here and make some plays and contribute to the team – be known as a football player and let her speak to being a celebrity."
Baskett and his family have moved around in a turbulent couple of years – from Philadelphia to Indianapolis back to Philly – but he admitted that, after two regular-season games in which he was active on the game-day roster for both, being the cap casualty when the Eagles signed a running back off the Buffalo Bills practice squad came as something as a shock.
"It definitely caught me off guard," Baskett said. "But that's the NFL. It's the life we choose. Stranger things have happened, but, I'll tell you this, in my career, I've had some pretty strange things (happen) and, (people) saying ‘Welcome back to Minnesota' was a short-list thing."
He didn't stay unemployed for long. The scooped up Baskett, adding another improbable jewel to Baskett's QB Triple Crown of Hall of Famers. He said he spoke with his brother following the Vikings signing him and said he caught some heat about his luck – having played for future Hall of Famers Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning and now Brett Favre.
"My brother actually joked with me about that," Baskett said. "He said, ‘I was just teasing you a couple of years ago when I said you get to play with some of the greats. But now you're kind of pushing the limits.' It's awesome because you get to learn from these guys that are great. They've been around a long time and I still see more years in them. People don't get to do that. I get to say that I've played with the guys who have forever changed the record books."
Baskett believes he can be a contributor and that his primary objective is to get the trust of Favre. He doesn't want to be a replacement for Sidney Rice. He doesn't want to be a poor-man's version of Jackson. He wants to be his own man and earn Favre's trust the old-fashioned way – by catching everything thrown his way.
"I want to gain his trust," Baskett said. "If I walk in right now and he tells me he trusts me, I want it that fast. But I know it takes time and it's either put up or shut up here. I've got to come out here, perform and get his confidence. It's not going to be given. Things aren't worth it if they're given to you. If you have to work for it, it makes it that much better. I'm willing to work to get his confidence and that's what I'm here to do."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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