Veterans Poised in Face of Adversity

The questions about the Love Boat continued to roll off the tongues of national reporters and local news-side reporters who don't normally grace Winter Park. And all the while several veterans took the questions and talked about surviving the adversity.

Monday marked the 11th day since the Love Boat sailed on Lake Minnetonka, bringing forth allegations of lewd behavior and prostitution. Staff members of Al and Alma's charter service have identified about 20 Vikings players, but very little new information has come forward since the news broke about one week ago.

That hasn't stopped the national sports reporters and local news reporters who normally don't attend media sessions at Winter Park from throwing questions at whichever player will make himself available to the media.

Although no one has associated Antoine Winfield with even being on either charter boat, an ESPN reporter asked him if he regrets "it." If Winfield wasn't on the boat, why would he regret it? It was the second such question from the reporter, and Winfield wisely just looked at the reporter, smiled, asked her name and said, "You're funny."

Winfield did talk about the Love Boat distraction in general terms, saying, "They pay us a lot to play football. We have a job to do, so once we get in between those lines we better be focused on football."

Linebacker Keith Newman, who should be talking much more about his insertion into the starting lineup and the more frequent use of the 3-4 defense by the Vikings, is another veteran defensive player fielding questions, even though he has not been named as being on the boats.

"There are going to be a lot of distractions, but in reality there is a game to prepare for on Sunday," Newman said. "It doesn't matter what goes on during the week … and you can't use those things as an excuse."

If 20 players were on the boats in question, that means about 40 players weren't there, but in the eyes of the public and of their own fans, those 40 have accepted some of the guilt-by-association barbs.

Fans at Soldier Field in Chicago held up signs in the shape of a lifesaver with "S.O.S." written on it, as well as signs saying they had a boat for rent. It goes with the territory when players are part of a team with a terrible perception of public misbehavior.

"Fans are always going to take shots, and they've got the golden opportunity right now," Newman said.

As usual, safety Corey Chavous is keeping the focus on football, no matter what the public thinks.

"Right now, nobody thinks we have character, so who cares? You have to worry about what's going on in the locker room with your guys – that's my responsibility and other guys' responsibility on the team to understand where we're at right now."

Safety Darren Sharper said winning will solve everything, but head coach Mike Tice wasn't so sure about the simplicity of Sharper's statement.

"I don't know if it solves everything. Sometimes in your life you make poor decisions. … I don't think winning necessarily solves everything," Tice said. "It sure makes your stomach feel a little better where you are not having that feeling like you want to puke all the frickin time. Stress does that to you. Sometimes you wake up and you say, ‘Man, I didn't have anything to drink last night, I didn't have anything fattening, why do I want to puke?' Then you realize, oh, that's right, you start remembering what's going on in your life."

No one took the barrage of questions Monday at Winter Park that Tice endured. Some reporters wanted to keep the discussion on football and what went wrong on the field in the wake of a 28-3 loss in Chicago. Others were there only to question what went wrong off the field.

One local television reporter tried to insinuate that a fund Tice uses to fine players and then gives the resulting money to charity was used to fund part of the boat excursion.

"Yes, I control (the fund) and no it wasn't (used for that)," Tice said.

When the reporter wanted to know how much was in the fund, Tice said, "None of your business. How is that? … The fine money goes to charity. We can give you a list of those charities that we have given the fine money to. I think they'd be real happy to tell you about how supportive we've been."

Even the Vikings' charitable causes have been dragged through the muddied waters that is the Love Boat, an incident that seems destined to live in infamy even while few new details are surfacing.



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