When November began, Ben Tate couldn’t have envisioned spending Thanksgiving in Minnesota. It was never part of his plan, but, as many players have learned over the years, nothing is guaranteed in the NFL and continuing a playing career often means relocating.
Tate’s case, however, is unique. After spending his first four seasons with the Houston Texans as the primary backup to Arian Foster, Tate became an unrestricted free agent and signed a two-year deal with Cleveland with the expectation that he would have the first opportunity to be a starter in his NFL career.
Instead, Tate got injured early in the season and, while he was out, fellow running backs Terrence West and Isaiah Crowell took over and proved their value. When Tate came back, his role was diminished and, when he groused about a lack of playing time, he was released.
It came as a shock to Tate, who didn’t know where his NFL career was heading. As it turned out, when the Vikings made a waiver claim on him and he was heading to the Vikings.
He had to immediately pull up stakes and report to his new team, and it’s been a difficult road for Tate. He left Houston for Cleveland by choice. His arrival in Minnesota was something that wasn’t in his control.
“Being the new guy is always a tough transition, especially in the middle of the season,” Tate said. “The offseason and free agency was 100 percent different than a situation like this. It’s definitely different.”
Tate had spent the offseason learning a new system in Cleveland. He had months to pick up on the nuances of the Browns’ offensive scheme. But coming to the Vikings is a vast departure from that. He’s had to learn Norv Turner’s offense on the fly.
Tate is doing his best to understand the new offense, but it’s never easy trying to learn a complicated offense in a crash course during the season with little time to digest the information, commit it to memory and get rid of what he had learned about Cleveland’s offense for the last eight months.
“It’s totally different, but I think I’m picking it up pretty well,” Tate said. “It’s all about studying it. You’ve got to study it and delete some of the other stuff you learned out of your mind. I’m staying on top of it and I think I’m picking it up pretty well.”
Moving from team to team isn’t all that unusual, but to have it happen during a season is pretty rare, especially for a veteran player. Not only does he have to learn a new offense, so many things that residents take for granted – where restaurants, stores, gas stations, etc. are located – are foreign to him.
“It’s the first time I’ve been through something like this,” Tate said. “It’s not like I’m used to it. You’re learning everything new – how to get around town, where everything is at, just getting used to a new city you’ve never been in before. It can be kind of tough, but that’s part of this job.”
There was some suggestion that, with Matt Asiata out with a concussion and Jerick McKinnon slowed with lower back pain, Tate might have a significant role in the offense last Sunday against Green Bay.
He didn’t even get in the game.
He isn’t sure what his role will be moving forward, but Tate is taking in information on the Vikings offense like many will be taking in turkey, taters and stuffing today. All he knows is, if his number gets called, he’s ready to answer the bell.
“At this point right now, I have no idea,” Tate said of his role moving forward. “I’m new to everybody here and they’re new to me. All I can do is just keep working hard, learning the offense and wait to get my chance – and be ready when it comes.”
Everything’s new to RB Ben Tate
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