Players feel the wear of drama camp

Vikings players have endured an interesting year to say the least. They've felt the heartache of the NFC Championship, the drama of a Brett Favre offseason and now the release of a future Hall of Famer. How are they coping?

Percy Harvin expressed his lament at not having Randy Moss as a teammate Wednesday. He was the same guy who, less than a month ago, compared his NFL apprenticeship to being like a kid in a candy store – having Hall of Famer Brett Favre refining his reads and Hall of Famer Randy Moss sharing his shaman wide receiver wisdom. He has just one of those two candy choices left and, while he understands the show must go on, he seemed to have lingering questions as to what was the spark that lit the fuse that blew up the Return of Randy.

On Monday, Ben Leber took one for the team and was thrust into the explanation spotlight – having the appearance of a hostage reading from a script. On Wednesday, more players were asked their opinions on the post-Moss era (again).

Greg Camarillo was as taken aback as anyone when informed that Moss had been excised from the squad. When asked to gauge the fan reaction to the release of Moss – an ironic question considering that players can't empathize with fans on such matters – he said that, in the 2010 Vikings locker room he's a part of, there's a much different approach than the 2000 Vikings locker room. The fans loved that Moss, but the behind-the-scenes Moss clearly rubbed Childress the wrong way in-house.

"No offense to the fans, but they don't always see the big picture of what goes on inside the walls of this facility," Camarillo said. "Randy is a good player. You can never take anything from that. He's a dominant receiver. But, you know, we need 53 team players and that's what (Childress) emphasized and that's what we have now and that's what we're going to roll forward with."

Camarillo said that, from the player perspective, Moss did nothing other than be a mentor for eager young receivers looking to soak up his knowledge like a sponge.

"He is definitely a likeable guy, a competitive guy, one heck of a receiver," Camarillo said. "Nobody had anything personal against him. I was happy to be his teammate for the short time that it was. He helped me grow as a receiver. He helped me understand things as a receiver. He helped pretty much everyone in the receiver room. Everybody liked him. He's a nice guy."

The reality of the situation brought back a theme that is sure to be repeated markedly more in the coming months. As much as players love the game, it is a business and they are employees. Lito Sheppard felt that sting earlier this year when the Jets cast him adrift instead of cashing in a $5 million roster bonus. He knew all too well that the NFL is a business based on generating money, but was stunned to see a player of Moss' reputation acquired and discarded so quickly.

"It was a big surprise," Sheppard said. "Nobody expected it, especially with a guy like Moss. It was a surprise, but it is a business and you see it with numerous players in different situations. It happens."

Whether Moss was a blessing or a cancer, the question of whether his release will be a distraction or not, kicker Ryan Longwell seemed to sum things up nicely by saying the last three months have been nothing but a distraction that needs to be overcome and, if things turn around, embraced.

"We have a resilient group and, ultimately, we're all responsible for our play on Sunday," Longwell said. "We've certainly dealt with stuff like this over the years – off the field stuff, even going to get Brett this year. It's stuff that's bigger than the game. We've rallied and that's why we have the group of guys we have in here. I don't see it being a problem going forward and realize that we're judged on wins and we need to get win more importantly than any of this other stuff."

Longwell said even he has been caught up in the soap opera nature of the 2010 season. When the buzz of the Moss-to-Vikings trade got traction, he and punter Chris Kluwe thought they had seen it all for the roller-coaster 2010 season. Little did they know those predictions would be dashed within weeks.

"I told Kluwe a couple of weeks ago, ‘Boy, this has got to be it, right?" Longwell said. "It just keeps going. You just do your job, you do it to the best of your ability and you take care of what you can control."

The clear indication of those players who spoke is that the banishment of Moss is just the latest chapter in one of the craziest seasons in recent Vikings history. The Vikings have become what the Cowboys have become. If media coverage means you are America's Team, the Vikings might lay claim to that. The 5-2 Chiefs are the darlings of the NFL, yet get buried on a daily basis nationally by the 2-5 Vikings. Minnesota is the big time in the NFL – one of those franchises that people talk about. It's something good teams get and need to preserve. Like it or not, the Vikings are one of those teams and anything that happens with the team is bigger news than with other franchises. If there isn't news, we'll find some. It's just that they're offering up so much that it's become too easy – and Moss is just the latest chapter aboard the unsteady Vikings ship.

"There's always something," Camarillo said. "When you have the high-profile names that we have, there's always going to be something. If it wasn't a Randy Moss, it was a Brett Favre. Something would pop up to become news. As players on a high-profile team, you know that and you just have to kind of ignore it and just get to work."


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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