Lurtsema's Reaction: Season-Opening Thoughts

The Vikings still have a number of questions remaining after the preseason. From the signing of Koren Robinson and the running backs situation to the preseason surprises and disappointments and getting to see Chris Hovan playing against the Vikings, former NFL defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema gives his opinions on the Purple review and preview.

VU: What do you think of the Koren Robinson signing, especially from a chemistry standpoint?

The best thing that's going for him is that Brian Williams went to bat for him. When you first come into the National Football League, there are so many things coming at a young kid with a lot of money. You can get off track real quickly, and a lot of them don't get back on track. I'm hoping that he did. That's me, but also, in the same breath, players feel the same way. He didn't survive the first couple years of being a celebrity – the mass media that attacks you and all the sudden the million friends that you never had that want to buy you a drink or whatever. He failed that test big-time. Now it's just a matter of Mike Tice being nice enough to give him a second chance because Mike has played the game and understands what I just quoted. Also, with (the release of) Kelly Campbell, which of the two of them would potentially give you the best end result a year or two down the road? Well, the answer, of course, is Robinson – if he doesn't get in any more trouble. It's a low-risk deal, and more importantly – and this is my opinion and we'll find out next Sunday (against Cincinnati) – I think they're going to use him for kick returns. Punt returns are a little different, but he'll definitely be a return man.

VU: With the way the whole preseason went down with injuries to Michael Bennett and Mewelde Moore and even Ciatrick Fason, do you think that Tice really has any other option than to go with a running back by committee, at least for this first week?

He has to go running back by committee, and the thing that's giving Mike a tremendous advantage is Daunte Culpepper. In all my years, I've never seen a quarterback develop so much in one year. Even in that one year, I thought he was one of the best things going last year. He just took a huge step this year, so that gives (Tice) a little bit of a cushion to hope that everybody gets healthy. You have to go by committee because you can't pound people out when they have these type of injuries. Are you hurt or are you injured? I just think they put the injury label on too quickly nowadays. You play hurt. They're being over-cautious, which is fine. If that's what they want to do today, they can do it today. We didn't do it in the past.

VU: Give me your preseason pleasant surprise and your preseason disappointment from the Vikings.

My biggest surprise is the step that Daunte Culpepper has taken. I knew Randy Moss being gone would make him a better quarterback from the leadership standpoint and also having all four receivers run their routes, allowing Daunte to go through his progressions. He's been way beyond my wildest dreams. I'm just tickled pink with the kid. He's been a great surprise. On the disappointing side, you're missing Fred Smoot on defense, but I don't see that defensive line just totally dominating. I thought they'd have greater outside pressure, but they haven't played a full game yet. I am a little disappointed in the defense. They have improved each and every week and they have all these new starters. I'm using those as excuses, but starting with Tampa there are no more excuses and I want to see if they have improved. They have the potential, but a lot of people go to their grave with potential.

VU: We get to see Chris Hovan in a Bucs uniform on Sunday. Tice says Hovan looks lighter from the film study they've done. Now they're using him as a nose tackle on run downs. How surprised are you by his new role in Tampa?

I haven't seen Tampa play, but I'm guessing they've got to be slanting to take advantage of his quickness. They're not going to play him as a straight nose tackle. He's going to slant right, slant left, be a little bit on the deceptive side. The thing with Chris was that he was so coachable here that it was almost to a disadvantage because he was trying to please everybody and thinking too much. I think it took away from his strength in getting off the ball. If he is lighter, who knows? As long as he is taking that first step low and not straight up – not with your head going straight up but with your foot going north – if he's out of that habit and they're just back to using his quickness and just letting him go 60 percent on instinct, I'm going to watch for that. There is no way he'll be going one-on-one with Cory Withrow, but I'll be watching number 95 so we'll see if old number 75 (Lurtsema) is totally off his rocker. If I have to eat crow come Monday, so be it.

VU: Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin used to be with the Vikings coaching staff. What makes him such a good defensive mind?

Monte Kiffin understands when a player makes a mistake, and he doesn't have to have the player embarrass himself by telling Monte why he made the mistake. He can make adjustments quicker that way. If you have a player constantly talk about himself in a negative aspect, it's going to bring him down a little bit, whereas if a coach comes over and just passes over it and explains it in such a way that you know that he knows why you screwed up, you don't have to explain it, it puts quite a comfort zone into a defensive player. It maintains their instincts, where they don't have to be too conscience of being a subject of negative discussion.

  • Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his column appears in the magazine.

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