Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian was hesitant at times to answer questions about his role in 2010, but he made something clear after the season was over: He wants to return to Minnesota and he expects that.
"Yeah, definitely do," he said.
The choice will be as much the Vikings' decision as it is Berrian's. He is under contract until 2013 after signing a six-year, $42 million contract with $16 million in guarantees. But with a big contract comes increased expectations and scrutiny. The lower the production, the higher the scrutiny.
"It was a very tough year," Berrian said. "It was definitely a tough year for the team; it was a tough year personally. It was pretty evident, I think you guys saw what happened out there this year."
Brett Favre's production was down and every important returning receiver but Percy Harvin experienced decreased production as well. Berrian was the poster child for the decreased numbers.
In his first year with the Vikings, he had 48 catches for 964 yards and seven touchdowns. That was in 2008, before Favre was with the Vikings. But while Favre flourished in 2009, throwing 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions, Berrian's role changed. He caught more passes but was dubbed the "slant king" by Favre. After averaging 20.1 yards in his first season in purple, Berrian's average per reception dropped to 11.2 (55 catches for 618 yards and four TDs) in 2009. Berrian said he would never have anything bad to say about Favre, but last year the receiver was almost an afterthought, catching 28 passes for 252 yards and no touchdowns.
Still, Berrian said things went well in his exit meeting with Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
"We had our exit meeting and everything we talked about was great," Berrian said. "Definitely positive."
Berrian declined to get into the details of his frustration, but he said things improved when Frazier became the interim head coach after 10 games.
"Definitely. I felt great about it. I know what Les is about or who Les is so the things we talked about, the things we spoke about were great," he said.
Frazier will have to make some decisions on Berrian's status. While the receiver's future with the team could be tied to Sidney Rice's free-agent status, Berrian does have an escalating contract. His base salary only increases $200,000 from 2010 to 2011 – from $3.7 million to $3.9 million – but it's already a hefty price, and he could earn more than $1.4 million in incentives. In 2012, the base salary portion of his contract really kicks into gear, moving to $6.9 million and then up to $7.9 million in 2013.
For now, Berrian is hoping to return to the Vikings and avoid going through another season of frustration, from team letdowns to problems with his hamstrings that limited him or took him out of several games in 2010.
"This season's over. We put the stamp on that and very excited to get back to work and start next year on a good note," he said. "… I don't think too many can say they've ever been through a season like this.
"You can probably roll the dice on whatever to happen – anything can happen. We handled it well, we did what we could do to try to win games and go out there and still perform at a high level."
Whether Berrian performed at a high enough level to continue with his multi-million contract is a decision for Frazier.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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