The Vikings inducted Joey Browner into the team's Ring of Honor as its 21st member Sunday night and paid tribute to Browner's hard-nosed style of play that made him a Minnesota legend.
Coming in as one of the forefathers of the second generation of Vikings, Browner earned one of the NFL's strongest reputations for being an enforcer. Asked what he believed was his biggest strength as a player, it didn't take Browner long to respond.
"Pain. My job was to deliver and wreak havoc and mayhem. So I took pride in that," Browner said. "My job was to intimidate folks in a good way. I was legally paid to do this. I enjoyed it. It was the only game that you could go out and play that you could physically – we do a lot of illegal things: you're not supposed to run into anybody, you're not supposed to swear at them. But you could do all those things on the field and do it legally."
Browner played with the Vikings from 1983-90 and earned the reputation of being one of the game's most intimidating safeties. Prior to Harrison Smith being drafted in the first round of the 2012, Browner (the 19th selection in 1983) was the only safety the franchise had ever selected in the first round. Long before mixed martial arts became a popular spectator sport, Browner used his acumen in karate and tae kwon do to get leverage advantage and strong-arm opponents to the ground with ferocity rarely seen in the NFL – even back in the "tough guy" era of the game.
"I came in the game when they didn't have rules," Browner said. "… You get them down any means necessary and you use your hands. I wouldn't be able to play today, but I could because the game is what it is."
Browner was part of the new blood when the Vikings made the move from Metropolitan Stadium to the Metrodome. Just as the playing environment was new under the Teflon roof of the dome, Browner embodied the new style of athlete and play that was taking place at the time. While the defense commonly known as the Tampa-2 was made famous by Tony Dungy and the Buccaneers, it had its genesis in Minnesota with the Vikings defenses of the early 1980s.
"The Tampa-2 originated here because Floyd Peters and all the coaching staff left here and continued to coach, but the Tampa-2 originated right here on this field," Browner said. "To be honored here on this field and the history and what we try to establish here, my first year was the second year the Dome was in existence. For me to be here over all these 30 years, but to be here this long and see how it has evolved, how the game has evolved, to see that we set the tone in my first nine years of playing, we set the tone of what the Vikings organization is."
Browner came from an athletic family and was a standout in everything he did. More than 30 years after he arrived in the NFL, he is still fifth in franchise history for combined tackles (1,098), the franchise leader in sacks by a defensive back (9.5), second in game plays by a defensive back (138) and fourth in career interceptions (37). He was selected to six straight Pro Bowls and was selected to the NFL Team of the Decade for the 1980s.
He said his style of play might still fit because he plays hard all the time and said some players today are too worried about celebrating.
"If you play that way all the time, (the officials) don't look at you wrong. When you have to make a play and you jump up and you say hello to the boys and you've got to text them and all this, or they tweet now. So they had it built into your helmet. I'm going to tweet them that I'm going to make a play. They wouldn't do that. That's why a lot of guys get fined because they act like they've never been there before. But if you act like you've been there before and you do your job in a professional manner, they don't tax you."
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.
Browner reflects on the pain inflicted
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