Lurtsema's Reaction: Scandal and Corrections

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema talks about the differences between player parties these days and in the 1970s, and dealing with the discipline. He also answers questions about the Vikings' new assistant coaches and the problems presented by playing outdoors.

VU: Start with your reaction to the whole "sex boat scandal?"

It's hard to really make a firm statement on that because it has to play itself out. In so many different situations, when a party like this occurs, it's the friends of the players that create the majority of the problems – this is their 10 minutes of glory and they're trying to impress other celebrities and such. They truly get out of hand. There were players that were trying to control everything, settle people down and get the thing back where it should have been to start with. Also, there were some players playing cards – that's where I'd be, back there trying to win a few dollars. So it has to play itself out, but the ones that did it, it's absolutely terrible. To bring the "sex toys" and things like that and having young kids, girls, it's ridiculous. I'd be so mad if it was my daughter, I don't know what I'd do with these ballplayers because I'd be so upset – ballplayers or their friends.

VU: How would you handle it if you were in a position to dole out the discipline, whether that's from an owners' standpoint or a coach's standpoint. Or do those two different authorities handle it differently?

I personally would get rid of the players that caused the problems. The ones that you know for sure were the problem in the situation, I'd get rid of them immediately. But, unfortunately nowadays with the union, the contract and what they have in there and what people are allowed to get away with, you can't make a decision from your heart or what is morally correct. Unfortunately, you have to weigh it different ways. Life has changed immensely since I went through and played, so a lot of us – the old-school people – we're really kind of thrown in the corner and just have to watch and see what the legal system allows the owner or the coach to do. I know Mike Tice has the authority to discipline, and if they can't be disciplined and if the players are that disrespectful outside of football – by disrespectful I mean to the great fans of Minnesota or any football fan – I don't think they should even be in the league.

VU: I've been out at practices when they are wrapping up for extended weekends or a month away and I've heard Mike Tice talk about staying out of trouble and keeping the image clean. Do you think it's just an out-and-out "in your face, coach" type of attitude when this happens with players? Is it just outright disrespect for the coach and for the organization?

No, it's not disrespect for the coach at all. What happens nowadays, even in college with the University of Minnesota, they said don't go downtown to certain places. What do players do? They go downtown. The National Football League, they even had this when I played, they came in and told you places not to go, what to stay away from. They have these meetings so the players know where they're not supposed to go, but here you go with young kids, time on your hands, all the money in the world, nobody is going to tell them what to do. Those are the ones, and the National Football League has got to wake up and the Players Association union and realize that to play in the National Football League is more than being just an elite athlete. People will get in trouble and there will be exceptions, but certain things you cannot tolerate because too many kids look up to these great athletes.

VU: Last one on this whole incident. The media coverage is absolutely incredible these days when we consider how much these players are under the microscope. I'm not asking you to indict any old-time players or anything, but from the handful of incidents that have been reported this year, whether there was illegal activity or it's just plain embarrassing to the organization, is there an increase in it these days because of the money and fame or is it just reported much more often than it was back in the 1970s?

It's actually the combination of both of them. The parties they had in the old days, they had a lot of great times, but the people in the past, we were respectful. We were respectful to authority. And now I think, with so many things, money buys you out of a bad situation, that you think you're beyond the law, that no matter what happens you'll be able to buy your way out anyways. You'll find some technicality. When we played, we didn't look for a technicality. You were either right or you were wrong. There was no gray area. Now there is such a tremendously large gray area that they think they can beat any rap and all of the sudden, thinking that money can get them out of all of these jams, they've suddenly lost what's really important in life – and that's to respect authority.

VU: Moving on to the field, what sort of things do you think Foge Fazio will bring that can help them?

When you have a great set of eyes like Foge, he made the players play. He instilled everything, the drive in them. Sometimes when you're so close to the situation, you can't see beyond your nose. So many times you see it over and over and you think the players are giving out 110 percent, but yet when somebody comes in with a new set of eyes it's obvious some of the things they're not doing properly – being around the ball more, the second effort, using their hands better, just a couple little things. The coaching staff is working their tails off to get everything going on defense, but an extra set of eyes might tweak a technique, might tweak all-out effort.

VU: Offensively, Jerry Rhome has been with the team before. When people talk about Daunte Culpepper's struggles, one of the things they assume is that he misses Scott Linehan. Do you agree with that assessment and do you think that Rhome can be sort of the new Linehan that helps out Daunte?

I think Daunte misses Linehan, from the standpoint that Daunte is such a wonderful, wonderful kid and he wants to be so successful that he listens to probably too many people. After a while, you lose your instincts, you lose that second instinct that I've talked about before, where the game slows down for you. And now he's trying to please everybody – don't scramble, but scramble if it's there, but be sure you read your coverages first, and then all of the sudden there is a slight hesitation and that hesitation in the National Football League could mean a sack or the scrambling hole not being there. I think he does miss Linehan because he's trying to please everybody because of his tremendous work ethic. When you get between a National Football League player's ears with too much, the harder you work the further behind you get.

VU: Is that almost going against bringing in another person to fill him with more information?

No, because the information that's there is just to correct the things, find out what the faults are and limit what they're doing. I heard on the Mike Tice show that 25 percent of the time the players are lined up in the wrong position (on defense), mental mistakes. My gosh, I can't believe that. The only way I think that could possibly happen is there are too many packages maybe, too much thinking going on – I'd love to pinpoint it. Somebody like Foge, who has been around and been a great coach could possibly spot that. I know from my experience as a player that a lot of these things are a very quick fix, a very quick fix.

VU: Going on the road, again, and an outdoor stadium, again, is there anything that can possibly explain why the Vikings have been so bad on the road the last three years?

It could be you get used to the speed of the Dome. And a lot of times, from the quarterback's standpoint when you go outside the drainage is set up where in the middle of the field there is a crest, sloping down on both sides. All of the sudden, you can't throw a straight pass; you've got to throw it basically aiming at the person's ankles. That comes into play and you have to make adjustments there, mainly in how the quarterback throws the ball. And then, when you play on different surfaces you play in different shoes, and I always liked artificial surfaces because I felt faster. Every athlete has something he likes and dislikes, so possibly getting used to the consistency of a dome for 10 games can throw you off, especially when you go out to grass or natural surfaces. A lot of the coaches nowadays say, ‘Hey, we want to win our eight homes games and we'll pick up a couple on the road and we'll be in the playoffs.' So I'd say number one is surface, number two is layout and then the amount of wind adjustments that the players have to make.

  • 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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