The dichotomy of two NFL teams playing each other Sunday might best be summarized by viewing quotes from each of the head coaches.
In one corner, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was a regular old giggle factory, yucking it up with reporters on Friday, talking about his best Halloween costume, candy and the possibility of fans wearing Randy Moss masks.
Belichick said he would be ghost this year, his favorite costume growing up was of John Kennedy and he likes Pez candy with the dispenser.
"Remember when you were a kid and you went back to the house that had good candy twice? And then they threw you out like, ‘Hey, you've been here. Get out of here.' Or you hope that everybody didn't show up at your house and there was some left over. Those were the days," Belichick said.
Back in the Midwest, Vikings coach Brad Childress was as tightly wound as he comes. He was tight with his answers on Brett Favre's availability as Childress contemplated whether his starting quarterback, limping around with fractures in his ankle and heel, gives the Vikings a better chance to win than Tarvaris Jackson, who hasn't started a game since the 2008 season.
"Not much to say. Good practice. I don't suppose you have any questions about anything but Favre," Childress said at the outset of his Friday press conference.
By the time he had fielded a dozen questions about his quarterbacks – 11 of them about Favre – his press conference was due for the last question and Childress ended it with this: "Anybody want to know anything about the game? I didn't think so. See ya."
It simply wasn't a good week for Childress. It started last Sunday with him failing to challenge a Packers touchdown and losing out on another bad call by the officials that eliminated a Vikings touchdown. Still upset with the officiating, Childress stepped up to the postgame podium in Green Bay and criticized the officiating.
"Hard to win when you turn it over three times, one for a touchdown and it's hard when they take touchdowns off the board," he said.
That was hardly it for Childress' criticism of the officials. He talked about the blown calls more on Monday and disclosed that the NFL's head of officiating, Carl Johnson, said both of the calls that ate at Childress were wrong, meaning if they were ruled correctly during the game it could have been an 11-point swing (they scored a field goal after Shiancoe's touchdown was overturned). His comments earned him a $35,000 fine from the league.
He also criticized the quarterback he spent the last two offseasons courting. Favre threw three interceptions against the Packers – one was returned for a touchdown and a second led to another Packers touchdown. Favre had a terrible second half, and his season to date has been nothing like the best season of his career last year, when he threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
Childress was clearly upset that Favre didn't take care of the ball, turning a 17-14 halftime lead into a quick 28-17 deficit in the Vikings' 28-24 loss. The loss turned a highly rated preseason team into a 2-4 reality. The pressure was mounting and the officials and Favre were the targets of Childress' frustration.
Favre took the criticism in stride after the game, but on Wednesday he said he didn't need to be told what he was doing wrong.
"We had a talk yesterday, not necessarily about that, but just injuries and things in general. I wanted to address to (Childress) that I would like to play or at least have that mindset as the week progresses. I think we have been able to talk about things," Favre said. "Do we necessarily agree? No, I think that is part of it. I think both of our intentions are to win. We got to get this on track. We know that. How we get there remains to be seen. As long as we are both focused on the right prize.
"I didn't come here hoping to get along with Brad any more or less than I did last year or whatever. He's the head coach; I'm the quarterback. I know what is expected of me. I don't need him or anyone else to tell me that. My intentions are to do that and help this team win. That doesn't mean we have to agree all of the time."
By Thursday, Childress admitted that it was out of character – at least his public character – to be calling out officials and Favre and he regretted doing it. He was aggravated and "you snap every now and then," he said.
"I hate it when I get that way. I hate it, but still fighting those demons and everybody's got them – players, coaches, everybody's got them. I acknowledge them," Childress said.
The pressure is on. The quarterback and coach were linked together through a successful and nearly championship-quality 2009 season, but with a losing record and both of them showing the wear of a season going bad, tensions are high.
Now, although it seems unlikely, Childress is faced with the possibility of being the bad guy who ends Favre's NFL record of 291 straight games started. Favre is lobbying hard to play. He didn't show up for the start of Friday's practice to throw in front of the cameras just to test his ankle.
He is also testing Childress. It would have been easy for Favre to stay in the walking boot all week and not push the matter … if he weren't Brett Favre. But the gunslinger, the ultimate competitor, doesn't fade easily into the sunset. Just ask Ted Thompson and the Packers.
Childress practically begged Favre to return this season. He visited him several times during the offseason. He sent three of Favre's closest friends on the team to woo him back to Minnesota and rekindle the magic of 2009.
So far, the flame is flickering and getting close to being blown out. But in this scenario it seems sure that at least one person will be burned before it is extinguished.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Sunday slant: Tensions turned up
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