Devin Aromashodu admitted that when he signed with the Vikings and first saw the slate of games for the 2011 season, the first game he looked for was Sunday night's game. It would be his return to Chicago after spending the last three seasons with the Bears.
In those three years, he made a lot of friendships and it isn't revenge that is on his mind. It's coming back to Soldier Field and trying to put on a strong performance in with his new team.
"I try to look at it as just another game," Aromashodu said. "I have a lot of friends on the team, but this is our business so you have to leave the friendship at the door. We're division rivals and we both need a win really bad. You take every division game personal because it gets us one step closer to making the playoffs."
Aromoshodu said he isn't bitter about his role being diminished in 2010 and subsequently not being re-signed when free agency began. He played in six games as a rookie in 2006 with Indianapolis, catching seven passes for 96 yards in six games. He was among the final cuts in 2008 and signed with the Washington Redskins to their practice squad. In December 2008, he was claimed by the Bears. He was inactive for the final three games of the season, but came into 2009 expecting a chance to be a major contributor.
That chance came late in the 2009 season, when injuries pushed him into the starting lineup for the final four games of the season. In those four games, he caught 22 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winning touchdown against the Vikings in a game he caught seven passes for a career-high 150 yards.
He thought his chance was coming in 2010, but it didn't materialize and he wasn't a major part of the offense. He played in 14 games, but caught just 10 passes for 149 yards and no TDs. Asked if he thought he was given a fair chance to compete, Aromashodu said he didn't know exactly why he fell on the depth chart.
"I thought things were going great (in 2009) and was confident I would be used a lot more," Aromashodu said. "The guys who were hurt the year before came back and got their spots back. I can't really point to why I didn't get used much. That's was a coaching decision."
Aromashodu said it wasn't the complexity of the 500-page Mike Martz playbook that was a problem. In fact, he picked it up quickly and said it wasn't nearly as daunting as it has been made to be. The difference in Martz's offense is that there is a lot more terminology, making the same play into four plays with the addition of a variation to it at the end of the play call. He said it wasn't his eyes that got a workout reading the playbook, it was his ears.
"It's difficult, but once you learned it, you got it and wasn't as bad as it's made to sound," Aromashodu said. "I didn't have too much trouble learning the offense. There are a lot variations on things that may sound the same, but aren't the same. You really have to listen closely to what is being said in the huddle or you could do the wrong assignment. It's a big playbook, but it's all about listening to the whole play. That's the main thing. You can't catch just bits and pieces of the play and expect to know what to do"
Martz offenses have historically created the penchant to leave the quarterback susceptible to blitzes. Wherever he installed his offense (St. Louis, San Francisco, Detroit and Chicago), his quarterbacks have taken sacks and have been forced to throw away passes to avoid more. Jay Cutler has taken a lot of abuse – both physically by the design of the offense, but from the fans as well.
Most of the previous quarterbacks in the Martz system were inexperienced starters and didn't have a wealth of time reading defense. Cutler had been a star in Denver and had his own throwing style. If he had a drawback, it was that he tended to hold the ball too long waiting for a big play to develop. That simply doesn't work that often in the Martz offense and Cutler has been prone to dismal days of throwing interceptions and taking sacks that kill drives. As a result, his honeymoon period with fans and the media didn't last long.
He was booed often by the home fans when he would struggle and throw multiple interceptions and was criticized when he didn't play in the second half of the Bears loss in the NFC Championship Game to Green Bay. Aromashodu said he can empathize with the plight of Donovan McNabb, who has been roasted in the media as being a has-been who should be benched for the betterment of the team (not as a sign of surrender) and was booed regularly in the Vikings' blowout win over Arizona on Sunday, which Aromashodu found hard to understand.
"I was a little surprised by it, but that is what fans do," Aromashodu said. "When you struggle, you get that. Jay Cutler got his share of it from the fans and the media last year, especially after the championship game. It comes with the job and you have to take the good with the bad sometimes. It isn't always fair, but it's what fans do when you're having problems."
So will Aromashodu hear the boo birds? Almost assuredly. Bobby Wade did when he came back as a Viking. Bernard Berrian did as well. Why should Aromashodu be different?
But he said he doesn't hear the fan noise when he's on the field as much as others might. He said he would expect it – "hey, I'm wearing purple now, not black," he said – but isn't going back to Chicago with revenge on his mind. If he does have a chip on his shoulder, he wants to let it out on the field against his former teammates, not the front office decision makers who opted to move on without him.
He's excited about the prospect of going back to Soldier Field, but said it will be more for the enjoyment of it than any sense of getting back at the Bears.
"I think it will be more fun than anything else, because I know so many of them on and off the field," Aromashodu said. "I think it will be fun for me to compete against guys I used to play with and only go up against in practice. I'm going there to beat the Bears and keep our goals moving forward and hope I can make plays for our team that gets that accomplished."
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.
Aromashodu on revenge, booing and Martz
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