Some of the best players and coaches in Vikings history gathered for a function organized by the local chapter of the NFL Alumni Wednesday. They watched the Vikings practice on a brisk, damp morning and recalled some of their best memories together.
The reaction from them toward the latest Vikings arrested over the weekend varied little. Their message: Players today need to realize how to conduct themselves better.
"Athletes have such a great job now days, it pays so well and has so many perks, why would you even attempt to screw it up? That's why I'm sure Coach (Mike) Tice and the NFL have a lot more rules and regulations than we had way back when," former Vikings tight end and broadcaster Stu Voigt said. "That's the price you have to pay — you have to obey the rules if you want to play in the NFL."
Young players are counseled on how to avoid trouble despite their increased exposure in public, but when tight end Steve Farmer and linebackers E.J. Henderson and Mike Nattiel were arrested early Sunday morning for allegedly assaulting a man outside a downtown nightclub, it was another in a line of highly publicized run-ins with the law.
"What these guys have to realize is that they have a job to do out in public," Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause said. "They shouldn't put themselves into situations like what happened this weekend. The Vikings don't need that. I don't know what happened, but you just don't put yourself in those positions.
"It's up to the individual to kind of police themselves, and they should know what they can do and what they can't do. The Vikings coaches, they can't overlook these guys and be with them at all times. … You've got to use common sense."
Players can reap the benefits of being a professional athlete, but when they get into trouble that fame can also work against them.
More media exposure — good and bad — is just the landscape in today's NFL. Current players know it and alumni know it.
"It's big news if a Viking gets in trouble," seven-time All-Pro center Mick Tingelhoff said. "There were some deals (in the past) that would have made the paper big-time today, but people just forgot about it or whatever. It wasn't a cover-up, it just wasn't newsworthy like it is today."
"I think it's more life in a fishbowl nowadays, not that I condone those incidents. They shouldn't happen, but I've got a feeling in the year 2004 athletes are put under the microscope and they better be good citizens because they are well-recognized. I think in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Vikings would go about their ways and do things and I'm not so sure you could even get in so much trouble in the old days. That's part of the deal — you not only have to be a good player on the field you have to be a good citizen off the field," Voigt said. "I think Mike Tice is right to demand that of the players.
"I think there is a real correlation between playing well on the field and having your house in order off the field with your personal life. If you don't do that, I'm not so sure people will hold roster positions open for players that are going to be repeat offenders. You let yourself get in these scrapes and you let the organization down when you continually give the Vikings a bad name in this town, or get in the press in an unfavorable light."
The relationship between the fans and the players has also changed. All of the Vikings alumni we talked to agreed that they had a closer relationship with fans when they played.
In some cases, fans were almost like teammates, and players were almost a part of the crowd — at least after the game on Sunday.
"I can remember in the old days you'd go and tailgate with the fans," Voigt said. "They were more protective of the players and also quick not to involve players in things that maybe they shouldn't be involved in."
* After two days of Eric Kelly not being at practice and "no comment" replies from head coach Mike Tice and secondary coach Chuck Knox, Jr., it appears the cornerback's days with the team are over. Kelly was still listed on the Vikings' roster this morning and he appeared to have a good opportunity to make the 53-man roster again as a dime or nickel back.
* Kane Anderson, an addition to the roster during camps last spring, was officially released. He completed his NFL Europe stint over the weekend after making the switch from defensive end to tight end, but he did not participate in any developmental camp practices this week and was removed from the roster this morning.
* Rookie wide receiver Blake Elliott of St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., was officially placed on injured reserved, ending his season. He broke his fibula in practice last Friday and was carted off the field. He had surgery over the weekend.
* Wide receiver Kelly Campbell was held out of practice for the second consecutive day because of illness.
* Tight end Steve Farmer continued his rehabilitation process from knee surgery on the sidelines Thursday after being arrested over the weekend.
* Thursday's practice was held indoors with cool, damp weather outside. The practice was earlier, shorter and less intense than the other three workouts this week to accommodate players and staff who were attending the Viking Children's Fund golf tournament in the afternoon at Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove.
* After four practices each of the last two weeks, the Vikings are scheduled for practices Monday through Wednesday next week, the final week of organized practices before training camp begins on July 30 in Mankato, Minn.
* Tice's nickname for rookie kicker Dan Orner, generously listed at 5-foot-8: "Little Jack Orner."
Alumni Disappointed With Arrests
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