Former Vikings coach Jerry Burns had the ability to turn members of the media red in one instant and rolling with laughter the next. He displayed that second trait effortlessly Wednesday in a press conference to discuss his impending enshrinement into the Vikings Ring of Honor at a halftime ceremony at Sunday's game against Detroit.
Burns rattled off the jokes throughout his time at the podium at Winter Park, poking fun at himself and the media, following a more serious session by current head coach Mike Tice, who is trying to figure out what has happened to his team.
Burns started by defending Tice while still making somewhat light of the current team's struggles.
"Mike is a great speaker, and some of my language isn't so good but I'll try to clean it up. We didn't have these gals in the old days when we had the press conferences or after practices when I'd get together with the guys," Burns said, referring to some female members of the media in attendance Wednesday. "It seems like every time I pick up the paper they are blaming Mike for this and that. They blame Mike for some guy getting in an automobile wreck. They blame Mike for some guy jumping offsides. They blame Mike for some guy dropping a pass. You can't blame Mike for me being here, you have to blame (director of public relations) Bob Hagan. Is this called the Sid Hartman memorial media center? Obviously Bud (Grant) didn't have anything to say about this because as I remember this was a racquetball court."
Burns continued with his poking fun at the media.
"I'm not going to keep you in here very long because I know there is a free meal for you guys and I know if you hear anything like that you guys are out of here in a shot. I'm knocking everything over here," he said, referring to a microphone that Tice often knocks around when he's at the podium. "I always admire (President) Bush when I see him up there talking without anything falling down. Anyway, I am doing the best I can under the circumstances. The guys who have been around here for a long time, they recognize that ain't too good. I will, for the ladies, watch my language."
Burns was the subject of a running skit on a local morning radio show during his days as head coach. Famous for his blue streaks whether the cameras were rolling or not, media in the audio business often had to have the bleep button refurbished.
Less than 500 words into his media briefing Wednesday, he was asked if that was the longest he had gone without using a curse word.
"I went to confession three or four years ago and I don't remember saying any then," he said. "Maybe the guy on the other side of the drapery was thinking of something to say to me. Anyway, my language isn't too good and there is no question about it. Believe me, ladies, I try to control myself around the gals."
Burns served as the offensive coordinator from 1968-85 during the Bud Grant years and through four Super Bowl appearances. In 1986, he took over the helm of the ship for six seasons before retiring following the 1991 season.
Since then, he has been a regular on the golf course.
"They always ask me, ‘What are you doing now?' I say I'm a professional golfer. They say, ‘No kidding?' I say, ‘Yeah, all I do is play golf, so that is my profession.' The only thing I could do in a professional realm of golf is carry the bag, and I'd probably do a sorry job of that," Burns said, showing his humor can be self-effacing as well.
As a commentator on WCCO's post-game show following Vikings games, Burns still follows the games closely. He had a few quips on the current team as well.
"The only thing that has got me confused out there, I was telling Mike Tice, is that kid (Paul) Edinger when he kicked that field goal to win the game against the Packers he's always got me looking the wrong way. I am looking over here because he's facing that way and then by the time I get turned around I lose the ball," Burns said.
Finally, on the subject of giving advice to Tice about how to deal with all the issues the team is currently facing, Burns had this to say: "I am married like most of you guys. I don't give advice, I get it. Don't put that in the paper because Mrs. Burns will raise hell at me. I have been in the same situation as Mike Tice. I was in the same situation at Iowa. When things start going bad, the same momentum that you get from winning, it works the other way when you lose," he said.
We figure Mrs. Burns, Marlyn, and Jerry himself aren't big Internet users, so we're probably safe there. Besides, we're quite sure Marlyn has heard it all before from the husband whose tirades and jokes sessions used to regularly grace the airwaves and newspapers of the Twin Cities.
Look for a more wide-ranging, exclusive interview with Jerry Burns as the cover story in Viking Update's December issue. There he talks more in-depth and seriously about his glory years with the Vikings and his reaction to the league these days. If you are not a subscriber to the print magazine edition of Viking Update and wish to be, please call 1-888-501-5752.
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