A tumultuous end to his time with the Miami Dolphins has given Mike Wallace a new shot with the Minnesota Vikings, one in which he is projecting leadership with words and actions.
After a sideline altercation in a Week 17 game against the New York Jets last year, Wallace was benched for the second half of his final game there. He says that’s in the past, but he is focused on controlling his emotions.
“You get frustrated sometimes when things are not going your way, you’re not winning, you’re not doing the things you expect yourself to do, your goals, and you get frustrated a little bit,” Wallace said Monday at Vikings training camp. “I have things that I have to hold the frustration in sometimes, but I work hard. So if I’m not getting the results that we want, I get frustrated, but I have to do a better job of not showing it and continue to work.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers groomed Wallace into a big-play threat, averaging 19.4, 21.0 and 16.6 yards per catch in his first three seasons there. But when he headed south to Miami in 2013, his yards per catch decreased to 12.7 and 12.9 last year with Ryan Tannehill as his quarterback instead of Ben Roethlisberger.
According to ESPN, Tannehill threw more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (five) when targeting Wallace in 2013, but last year it was quite a change – 10 touchdowns and one interception. Still, the incident in the season finale caused some of his former teammates to call him out as he was on his way of Miami.
Wallace reiterated what he said when he was traded to Minnesota: He would never pull himself out of a game.
“That was a team decision. I would never-ever in a million years come out of the game,” Wallace said. “It was the last game of the season. You’re trying to win the game. You wouldn’t just take yourself out. You want to go out on a high note.”
He said former teammates in Pittsburgh and Miami can attest to his work ethic, and so far with the Vikings he has been one of the last players to leave the field following practice, catching dozens of ball rocketed out of the JUGS machine, many of them stopping dead in his hands with one-handed grabs.
“Sometimes you get a bad rep. That’s life. I got a lot more good things out of my life by playing football than bad, so you’ve got to take the good with the bad,” he said. “It’s part of the game. I’m not worried about it.”
He said all of his coaches in Miami called him after he was traded, saying they wished things could have worked out there. He admitted that his relationship with head coach Joe Philbin wasn’t good in the season finale, but said that has smoothed over, too.
“It was never me versus the coaches or me versus Ryan (Tannehill) or other guys on the team. They tried to paint that picture when I left. I’m gone now; I can’t really defend myself,” Wallace said. “You can say whatever you want. But I’ve always had a great relationship with my teammates and my coaches.”
Despite all the he-said, he-said that happened after that game and after he was traded, Wallace maintains he enjoyed his time in Miami.
Now, he is calling offensive coordinator Norv Turner with the Vikings “my favorite guy.”
“I love Coach Norv. He’s a funny guy. He lets nobody slide in meetings – (Adrian Peterson) might get a pass – but from Teddy (Bridgewater) to the last guy on our offense, if you do something he’s going to tell you something about it,” Wallace said. “He’s going to be on you, but he’s going to have a joke or two right behind it. It’s just his personality. It’s positive. He brings great energy.”
Turner said it doesn’t matter to him what Wallace says, it’s the production on the field that he’s looking for.
“The most important thing about leadership – and I’ll say this about every position, I hear people talking about Teddy’s leadership ability has improved – to me the only thing that matters is how do you play when you step on the field and I want Wallace to make plays. If he makes plays, he does the things we think he can do – he works in practice, he sets some examples in practice with his actions, the way he approaches preparation, that’s leadership. What guys say is very meaningless to me, it’s obviously what they do.”
That said, however, Wallace is focused on being a leader as the most veteran receiver in the corps. He’s the only Vikings receiver with more than three years of experience. For him, the most important thing is controlling his emotions.
“Being a better leader to me is not showing it when you’re frustrated when things aren’t going your way, stay level-headed, stay grounded. Always keep the team first,” Wallace said. “I always remember that we have one goal in common and everybody out here wants to win. It might not be me catching 100, 200 yards, a touchdown. It might be Adrian going for 250 or (Charles Johnson) going for 200 yards, or Kyle (Rudolph), whoever. Just being there for all the guys and knowing that we’re all one team. I’m always happy for my teammates. I’m always going to celebrate with them anytime they score. I don’t think I was bad, but could get better and I know that. I’m going to do a better job.”
Wallace wants to control emotions, be leader
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