The Vikings have found at least one positive from the NFL lockout – engaging their alumni even more.
While the NFL confirmed that teams are able to use current players for charity events, the Vikings have decided to stay away from walking the thin line for two reasons: They don't want to incur any fines if a charity event causes conversation that the league deems against the lockout rules – like coaches starting to talk football strategy with players – and there aren't many players staying in Minnesota full-time this offseason since the lockout has caused the cancellation of all team-organized activities to date with players.
Brad Madson, the team's executive director of community relations, has relied heavily on current players over the years to carry out his mission of making the Vikings a community-oriented organization. This year, however, the method has changed. Despite the league's allowance for involving players in charity work, the Vikings are being cautious and steering clear of any contact with players. Text and voice messages from players to team employees are going unreturned, which one player confirmed and understood. In fact, the one-day, court-imposed respite from the lockout gave more than just coaches the opportunity to talk to players. Other team employees took the opportunity to catch up with players they consider friends as much as co-workers.
In a flash, the lockout was back on after another court ruling, causing Madson to turn to ex-Vikings to ably fill in during charity events, like the annual playground build coming up on Friday in Brooklyn Center.
"The alumni has been so great about helping me out with my stuff during the lockout," Madson said. "This is kind of a fun one, so I kind of want the shine to be on [the alumni] for helping and then when it all gets settled I'll go back to the school with the current guys and do an assembly over there. For this one, I try to be loyal to the people that helped me out, and the alumni really stepped forward with the community front. That's just the way the business of the NFL is right now and when things get resolved we'll get the current guys back involved."
Madson said he prepared for the possibility of a lockout some time ago and didn't schedule events this offseason that required the use of current players, although he is hearing that a few players with their own foundations have continued to work those avenues in the community without the team's assistance. Last week, former cornerback Chris Rogers was part of a $10,000 donation the Vikings made to a fitness zone for a Champlin Park-Brooklyn Park academy.
"It's been eye-opening to me because the kids are so excited to meet a guy that played for the Vikings and Chris had such great energy. It's kind of opened my eyes. I've always known what a treasure the alumni is," Madson said. "To see the reaction they get – not only the kids, but then the teachers know a lot of the legend guys involved. Chris isn't a widely known player, but he played in the league and how many athletes get a chance to play professionally? That's been fun to do. Same thing with Rickey Young. I remember him playing when I was a kid growing up. To engage him and see the energy he brings to the kids, it's been fun and a good eye-opener for me , as a guy that's been around here a long time, that the alumni are a big part of the history of the organization."
While the lockout has brought out a lot of negative reaction from fans and players, Madson has found a way to make the best of a bad situation when it comes to his work with the Vikings' charities.
"I think so for me. The Wilfs have really embraced the alumni. But, speaking for myself, we get in our comfort zone and a focus of my job is to be a resource to the current players and to help with their community outreach, but to see just how good the former players are and just how much they enjoy it …" Madson said. "I can see from a personal standpoint definitely calling in and asking the alumni guys to partner more with the current guys [when the lockout ends]. There's that energy when the kids get to see Adrian [Peterson] or Ben Leber at the hospital visits, but sometimes the staff remembers the guys that played in the '70s and the '80s more, so I think that's something that can enhance our outreach going forward."
With less than a dozen players living in Minnesota year-round and no organized activities or minicamps to bring them back at this time of year, Madson has gone old-school with the Vikings' present-day charity work.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Vikings alumni assisting with charity work
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