It wasn't as if Everett Lindsay was standing in Cleveland Browns training camp last month making a wish while clicking the heels of his football cleats three times. But just because he wasn't doing it doesn't mean he wasn't thinking about it.
Either way, the net result was just the same.
Next to his wife and son, the two things Lindsay appreciated most in life were fishing and playing for the Minnesota Vikings. For that simple reason, Lindsay's six-year marriage with the Vikings during the 1990s made perfect sense.
His wife is from St. Paul. His occupation, offensive lineman for the Vikings, was in Eden Prairie at Winter Park five days of the week and in Minneapolis at the Metrodome on Sundays. The Vikings are notorious for making the playoffs and have been one of the winningest franchises in the NFL since coach Dennis Green's regime began in 1992. Admittedly, he couldn't ask for a better situation.
So there he had it. His family life was set, his professional life ideal.
All that needed fulfilling was his hobby — fishing. Wetting a line ranks along the same lines of popularity in Minnesota as tater-tot hotdish. While playing for the Vikings for six seasons, all Lindsay needed to do was put the rod and reel in the back of the truck next to the bait and drive an hour in any direction and sooner or later — usually sooner — there was one of 10,000-some lakes to satisfy his hunger.
Lindsay, a utility offensive lineman for the Vikings, had life good, but being human wondered if the grass was indeed greener elsewhere. So he followed his then-offensive coordinator Brian Billick to Baltimore to embark on a journey with the Ravens. It was short-lived, one year in fact. But Lindsay started all 16 games for the Ravens in 1999, the year before Baltimore made its Super Bowl run.
Moving to the expansion Cleveland Browns last season, Lindsay felt he may eventually find a home. Being teammates with former Vikings like Stalin Colinet and Corey Fuller, Lindsay thought he would feel more at ease, but playing for an expansion franchise that hopes to, at best, tread water wasn't where Lindsay wanted to be playing while in the prime of his career.
"There was so much change over the time I was there for 1 1/2 years," Lindsay recalled. "It was a young team with a lot of guys just trying to learn. They changed systems over there three times while I was there — it just wore on me a little bit."
Rather than suffer through another season of NFL 101, Lindsay longed for the days of being a member of the Purple in advanced courses such as Chasing the Lombardi Trophy 424.
With the Browns, his quarterback was Tim Couch, not Daunte Culpepper. His running back was James Jackson, not Michael Bennett. His wide receiver was Quincy Morgan, not Randy Moss. Lindsay looked around the offense and couldn't decipher if he was playing in an NFL game or the NCAA Blue-Gray All-Star Classic.
"They're getting better right now," Lindsay said. "I think (Browns head coach) Butch Davis is going to get his guys in there and they're going to win eventually. But the stress of changing players and changing more players and changing systems wore on me."
Lindsay was tiring of his situation in Cleveland, so the Browns tried to accommodate him. "They knew I wasn't exactly tremendously happy there," Lindsay said. "They were trying to move me."
And move him they did.
Browns pro personnel coordinator Jeremy Green, Vikings coach Dennis Green's son, called his father at practice at Winter Park and the father-son duo made the trade. The Vikings were reunited with Lindsay and the Browns received a 2002 conditional draft pick.
Since Korey Stringer's death left the Vikings a virtually unfillable hole at right tackle, the team needed to bolster its depth throughout the offensive line. Chris Liwienski, who was going to start the season at left guard, was moved to fill Stringer's position at right tackle. Corbin Lacina, who was going to be the team's utility lineman capable of playing all five positions, was elevated into the starting lineup at left guard.
The shifting and scrambling of the offensive line's depth chart left the Vikings with a need at rover. Lindsay, more than familiar with the Vikings' offensive system and blocking schemes, was a logical fit.
"We were looking for backups, not a starter," offensive line coach Mike Tice said. "We were looking for someone who could take some snaps for Corbin if he gets banged up and a guy who can go in at right tackle and help Liwienski and a guy who can play all of the positions."
In a matter of hours, Lindsay went from spending time in training camp with a team temporarily bound for Nowheresville to a franchise with postseason dreams and Super Bowl wishes.
"The system is the same and the terminology is the same," Lindsay said. "Mike Tice is the same, which makes it a tremendous turnover for me. Seriously, I've never been happier my whole life playing football. I'm ecstatic to be here.
"I'm happy to come to practice every day and I enjoy playing with the guys here."
For the first time in three seasons Lindsay won't be in the starting lineup, and his testimony reveals he's never been happier. But don't mistake Lindsay's happiness for complacency. Just because he says he's the happiest he's been — even if he is a reserve on the offensive line — doesn't mean Lindsay couldn't care less about winning.
On the contrary. Lindsay wants a Super Bowl ring more than anything else his NFL career could produce. But for the first time since Lindsay left Minnesota three years ago, he can look up and down the offensive line and see players who have been around long enough to get to know each other.
On a successful NFL offensive line, continuity and teamwork are essential. The great Redskins "Hogs" of the 1980s had it, so did the Cowboys' line of the 1990s. Being back with his teammates like Dave Dixon, Liwienski and Matt Birk makes Lindsay enjoy his drive to work every morning.
What has made his return to Minnesota even better yet is that over his two-year sabbatical his linemates got better. "Matt Birk's confidence level is way up, his technique is near flawless. The sky is the limit for him as a player," Lindsay said. "Dave Dixon is such a big human being, he's almost the same player I remember. He's gotten even more experienced and smarter and that only makes him a better player. The guy I've been most impressed with is Chris Liwienski. He used to be an inexperienced rookie. Now he's an experienced veteran that plays with tremendous ability."
The word on Lindsay?
"Everett has always been a terrific player for us," Green said. "His addition will give us some added experience to go with our young offensive line."
For the first time in a while, Lindsay can listen to teammates and coaches talk about goals of making the playoffs and actually believe they may come true. For the first time in a while, Lindsay can buy into the preseason hype that his team will play meaningful games in December and January.
"At the beginning of the season every team has optimism of going to the playoffs and going to the Super Bowl no matter what they did the year before," Lindsay said. "This is a great opportunity for us. With the talent we have here and the coaching we have here we could go far."
Go far, and go together. For the first time in years, Lindsay feels a cohesiveness he said he didn't experience as a Raven or as a Brown.
Lindsay has found a home back in Minnesota. It is almost as if he never left.
"I've always felt this team's been close," Lindsay said. "When I was here before, this team was close. When I was in Baltimore and Cleveland, I never felt the closeness I felt here." VU
Getting To Know: OL Everett Lindsay
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