Draft position irrelevant to current Vikings

As some fans start to think about the Vikings losing games for a better pick in the draft, the players want none of that thinking. They are trying to avoid being stamped in the record book as the worst team in franchise history.

Erin Henderson is an admitted sports junkie. When he's not playing, practicing or working out, it isn't unusual to see him watching other teams and other sports on television.

Earlier this week, Henderson noticed a scroll on the bottom of the screen pertaining to the Vikings saying that the 2-10 start the Vikings are off to is the worst in franchise history. He knew things were bad, but didn't realize that the 2011 Vikings were off to the worst 12-game start to a season in the 51-year history of the franchise.

Henderson said he was stunned by what he read and made a point to let his teammates know that they have the chance to avoid the 3-13 franchise low suffered in 1984 and that there is still a chance to reclaim some of their pride, dignity and winning ways. The scrolling words spoke volumes in silence and made a significant impact on him – a feeling he wanted to share with whoever would listen.

"It was made very clear to me and, as soon as I found out, I came in here and told just about everybody in the locker room," Henderson said. "You look around this locker room and try to figure out how is this possible for us to be a 2-10 football team? You look at the talent we have on this team, it's hard to put your finger on it. It's hard to figure it out."

As it currently stands, the Vikings are tied with the St. Louis Rams for the second-worst record in the NFL, ahead of only 0-12 Indianapolis. Henderson said that, despite the talent the Vikings have on both sides of the ball, they don't want to be viewed as one of the worst teams in the league and, just as important, the worst Vikings team in 51 years. He said the record books are forever and those players from the 1984 team still carry the stigma of being the worst group of players in the history of the franchise. The 2011 Vikings want no part of being in that portion of the team's legacy.

"I don't want my name associated with anything like that," Henderson said. "We put ourselves in a terrible situation. We're a 2-10 football team – the worst start in the Vikings' history. That's not something you want to be associated with or something you want your name to go down in history as. Whatever we've got to do these last four (games), we've got to out there and figure it out. That's not fun. That's not cool. The Vikings have been around for 51 years now. You don't want the worst team to ever come through this locker room."

Henderson bristled at the thought that continued losing would translate into a better draft pick in April. He said nobody on the team is looking ahead to April. They're trying to fix what is ailing the team and, unlike Major League Baseball, where teams out of the running call up minor leaguers to get experience, or the NBA, where games are blatantly thrown to increase their odds in the draft lottery, there is no such mindset in the NFL, especially not with a proud Vikings locker room that has had its fill of eating humble pie.

"I can't think about that," Henderson said. "I'm not in the draft. I'm here. I play linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings. I want to retire a Minnesota Viking. Thinking about the draft is irrelevant right now. I'm not going to go out there and throw a game. That's my livelihood we're talking about. If I go out there and I'm giving up plays so we can get a draft pick, they're going to look at me and say, ‘He's a weak link; let's get him out of here.' Then I have to look at my son and my fiancée and tell them I don't know how to provide for us right now. That's not in me and I don't think that's in anybody on this team. We're going to go out and fight and scratch and compete the best way we know how."

Kicker Ryan Longwell has been around the league for a decade-and-a-half and said this is a new experience for him as well. The Packers only had one losing season his entire time in Green Bay, but, when they did have their down year, it was never a consideration to lay down and not give out a full effort. He said it goes against everything the NFL stands for and that every member of the organization, whether he wears a uniform or a three-piece suit, needs to be accountable in trying to turn things around.

"You don't want any records that have to do with the dark side of the business," Longwell said. "Unfortunately, we are here. I just think it's everybody – every man in the locker room, every coach, every V.P., everybody in the whole organization has to look at this thing and figure out if you're helping it or hurting it. Unfortunately for us, we've worked hard but we haven't got the wins and you're judged on wins and losses in this business. You have a job description to go out and perform no matter what the record. We have four games to do that and you find out a lot about a lot of people when you get to this point of the season when there is quote-unquote nothing to play for."

Would the Vikings consider tanking a game or two at the end to increase their chances of getting a blue-chip draft choice next April? Longwell didn't mince words.

"Never ever," Longwell said. "It's hard to tell guys to go out and not give full effort. You're a professional athlete, but ultimately you're the same guy who played kickball at recess, Little League Baseball and all that stuff. You've always wanted to win to get to this level. If you get yourself thinking we can get a better draft pick, they may be drafting your position and you'll be out. It's certainly not worth it to shut it down."

While some fans have found solace in knowing that each loss improves the Vikings' draft stock, the players are determined to make their first-round pick next April as low as possible. The only way to do that is to win. Sunday's opponent, the Detroit Lions, were in the exact same position the Vikings were in after 12 games of the 2010 season – sitting at 2-10 and going nowhere. But they won their last four games and it has carried over into 2011 – if the playoffs were to start today, the Lions would be one of the wild card teams. Henderson theorized the Vikings are striving to do the same thing, because the carryover with players and fans alike would be the start of the 2012 season – a reason to work harder in the offseason to help rebuild the franchise from a forgettable 2011 season that they're fighting to keep off the list of all-time ineptitude.

"We've got four (games left)," Henderson said. "Why not enjoy a four-game win streak, have something to look forward to and give the fans something to be excited about coming back? We've got a lot of young talent here in the locker room. A lot of people are going out there and getting their first chance to play some meaningful football in the NFL, including myself. I'm going to learn, I'm going to get better and I think everyone is taking that approach to it as well. We have four left, so try to make the best of it and see where we go from there."


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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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Erin Henderson is an admitted sports junkie. When he's not playing, practicing or working out, it isn't unusual to see him watching other teams and other sports on television. Earlier this week, Henderson noticed a scroll on the bottom of the screen pertaining to the Vikings saying that the 2-10 start the Vikings are off to is the worst in franchise history. He knew things were bad, but didn't realize that the 2011 Vikings were off to the worst 12-game start to a season in the 51-year history of the franchise. Henderson said he was stunned by what he read and made a point to let his teammates know that they have the chance to avoid the 3-13 franchise low suffered in 1984 and that there is still a chance to reclaim some of their pride, dignity and winning ways. The scrolling words spoke volumes in silence and made a significant impact on him – a feeling he wanted to share with whoever would listen. \"It was made very clear to me and, as soon as I found out, I came in here and told just about everybody in the locker room,\" Henderson said. \"You look around this locker room and try to figure out how is this possible for us to be a 2-10 football team? You look at the talent we have on this team, it's hard to put your finger on it. It's hard to figure it out.\" As it currently stands, the Vikings are tied with the St. Louis Rams for the second-worst record in the NFL, ahead of only 0-12 Indianapolis. Henderson said that, despite the talent the Vikings have on both sides of the ball, they don't want to be viewed as one of the worst teams in the league and, just as important, the worst Vikings team in 51 years. He said the record books are forever and those players from the 1984 team still carry the stigma of being the worst group of players in the history of the franchise. The 2011 Vikings want no part of being in that portion of the team's legacy. \"I don't want my name associated with anything like that,\" Henderson said. \"We put ourselves in a terrible situation. We're a 2-10 football team – the worst start in the Vikings' history. That's not something you want to be associated with or something you want your name to go down in history as. Whatever we've got to do these last four (games), we've got to out there and figure it out. That's not fun. That's not cool. The Vikings have been around for 51 years now. You don't want the worst team to ever come through this locker room.\" Henderson bristled at the thought that continued losing would translate into a better draft pick in April. He said nobody on the team is looking ahead to April. They're trying to fix what is ailing the team and, unlike Major League Baseball, where teams out of the running call up minor leaguers to get experience, or the NBA, where games are blatantly thrown to increase their odds in the draft lottery, there is no such mindset in the NFL, especially not with a proud Vikings locker room that has had its fill of eating humble pie. \"I can't think about that,\" Henderson said. \"I'm not in the draft. I'm here. I play linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings. I want to retire a Minnesota Viking. Thinking about the draft is irrelevant right now. I'm not going to go out there and throw a game. That's my livelihood we're talking about. If I go out there and I'm giving up plays so we can get a draft pick, they're going to look at me and say, ‘He's a weak link; let's get him out of here.' Then I have to look at my son and my fiancée and tell them I don't know how to provide for us right now. That's not in me and I don't think that's in anybody on this team. We're going to go out and fight and scratch and compete the best way we know how.\" Kicker Ryan Longwell has been around the league for a decade-and-a-half and said this is a new experience for him as well. The Packers only had one losing season his entire time in Green Bay, but, when they did have their down year, it was never a consideration to lay down and not give out a full effort. He said it goes against everything the NFL stands for and that every member of the organization, whether he wears a uniform or a three-piece suit, needs to be accountable in trying to turn things around. \"You don't want any records that have to do with the dark side of the business,\" Longwell said. \"Unfortunately, we are here. I just think it's everybody – every man in the locker room, every coach, every V.P., everybody in the whole organization has to look at this thing and figure out if you're helping it or hurting it. Unfortunately for us, we've worked hard but we haven't got the wins and you're judged on wins and losses in this business. You have a job description to go out and perform no matter what the record. We have four games to do that and you find out a lot about a lot of people when you get to this point of the season when there is quote-unquote nothing to play for.\" Would the Vikings consider tanking a game or two at the end to increase their chances of getting a blue-chip draft choice next April? Longwell didn't mince words. \"Never ever,\" Longwell said. \"It's hard to tell guys to go out and not give full effort. You're a professional athlete, but ultimately you're the same guy who played kickball at recess, Little League Baseball and all that stuff. You've always wanted to win to get to this level. If you get yourself thinking we can get a better draft pick, they may be drafting your position and you'll be out. It's certainly not worth it to shut it down.\" While some fans have found solace in knowing that each loss improves the Vikings' draft stock, the players are determined to make their first-round pick next April as low as possible. The only way to do that is to win. Sunday's opponent, the Detroit Lions, were in the exact same position the Vikings were in after 12 games of the 2010 season – sitting at 2-10 and going nowhere. But they won their last four games and it has carried over into 2011 – if the playoffs were to start today, the Lions would be one of the wild card teams. Henderson theorized the Vikings are striving to do the same thing, because the carryover with players and fans alike would be the start of the 2012 season – a reason to work harder in the offseason to help rebuild the franchise from a forgettable 2011 season that they're fighting to keep off the list of all-time ineptitude. \"We've got four (games left),\" Henderson said. \"Why not enjoy a four-game win streak, have something to look forward to and give the fans something to be excited about coming back? We've got a lot of young talent here in the locker room. A lot of people are going out there and getting their first chance to play some meaningful football in the NFL, including myself. I'm going to learn, I'm going to get better and I think everyone is taking that approach to it as well. 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