There were some high hopes that the Minnesota Vikings’ improvement in 2015 on both sides of the ball would have resulted in more of them making the Pro Bowl, with the initial players announced last night.
When the list came out, there was only one Viking on it – running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson felt honored that he was selected to the Pro Bowl for the seventh time in his career, but there was a bittersweet element to it because he was hoping that more of his teammates would have been joining him for the all-star game.
“It’s unfortunate that I’m the only that made it,” Peterson said. “There were a couple of guys I thought should have made it. It’s a blessing. It’s a team effort – to get us into the playoffs, the Pro Bowl, it’s the entire offensive line, the quarterback, this entire offense, the receivers doing a great job.”
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was happy for Peterson, but was also a little surprised that he was the only Viking to make the Pro Bowl. While he was happy that Peterson got his recognition, Bridgewater’s focus isn’t on a meaningless game in Hawaii in late January. It’s on very meaningful games in late December and early January.
“I don’t really know how the Pro Bowl voting works, but congrats to Adrian,” Bridgewater said. “He’s a guy who has worked extremely hard and had an outstanding year, so were happy for him. We just know that we have to continue to just take care of our business right now. We have two games left and that’s what’s most important to us.”
One glaring omission in Peterson’s mind was the exclusion of fullback Zach Line. Peterson found it hard to believe that anyone who has watched the Vikings this season couldn’t recognize the job that Line has done in plowing the road for Peterson and opening running lanes for him.
“My fullback, I have no idea how he didn’t make the cut with the numbers he had,” Peterson said. “I don’t think you can find another fullback that can match (his production). But it feels good. It’s a blessing and a testament to the hard work I put in. It’s a good honor.”
Other Vikings players were equally dismayed at the exclusion of players like Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith. Defensive end Brian Robison said the annual selection of players is often based on reputation and a career body of work rather than what a player has accomplished during the course of the current season.
Like a lot of his teammates, he felt the Vikings got snubbed and it may serve as motivation to let the rest of the world know that the Vikings have quality players on both sides of the ball, whether they get recognized for individual achievements or not.
“I’m over the Pro Bowl,” Brian Robison said. “The Pro Bowl is a popularity contest. It’s just one of those things where you see some guys that make it and the absolutely deserve it and other guys who don’t make it and you wonder how the heck they didn’t make it. It is what it is. At the end of the day, the good thing about our team is we’re not concentrating on Pro Bowl stuff. We’re concentrating on winning ballgames.”
Stressing the team has been a focus of head coach Mike Zimmer since he came to Minnesota, hammering home the point that 11 men working together is more important than one or two star players getting the credit for a team’s success.
He thought the Vikings should have been better represented on the 86-man Pro Bowl roster, but isn’t dwelling on it because the Vikings have more important business immediately at hand than wondering whether or not their players are getting the recognition they deserve.
“I feel like we should have had more people on there,” Captain Munnerlyn said. “We’re a good football team. We’ve got a lot of great players on this team. I guess the fans or the guys (players and coaches who vote) didn’t see it the same way we did. It’s a team game, so we’re trying to have our goal on one thing – that’s win the division. We’re trying to go out there and win this game Sunday and see where it goes from there.”
At his weekly Wednesday press conference, Zimmer said it wasn’t a topic of much discussion. He knows the talent his team has and, whether or not it is noticed nationally doesn’t matter to him. The Vikings still hold their playoff future in their own hands and he doesn’t care if the Vikings had no players named or a dozen.
It doesn’t change their situation. Win the last two games and they win the NFC North title. Nobody can take that away from them if they achieve that goal, so how many of his players made the Pro Bowl is insignificant in comparison. He knows better than anyone the talent on this team, whether others notice it or not.”
“I didn’t really talk to them much about that,” Zimmer said. “We probably had some guys deserving and every year it’s kind of like that. I like this football team; I like the guys we have and to me they’re all Pro Bowlers, to me. That’s really all that I care about.”