Lurtsema's Reaction: Potpourri of Subjects

The former defensive lineman gives his reaction to the Terrell Owens situation, team troubles back in the 1960s and 1970s, his analysis of the Vikings' defensive line, running back and quarterback situations, and the differences between playing for the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, which were both former teams for Bob Lurtsema.

VU: What's your reaction to the Terrell Owens situation?

They're going to pay him after the suspension, they just don't want him around. As far as I know, they can legally do that. If he wants to be cut they should say, ‘OK, now give us back every nickel we gave you for a bonus, give me that $1.725 million bad-boy clause.' There is a clause in his contract that says if he is a disturbance to the club he has to give back $1.725 million to the club. I heard that on the radio and TV. For all the readers, I want them to know I have new idol, and that's Jim Mora Sr. I heard Jim Mora on a recent TV show with all these media gurus saying that Atlanta could be a potential drop-off point for Terrell Owens. Well, Mr. Mora Sr. gave basically this quote: "If my son picks up Terrell Owens I will disown him." His son is the head coach of the Atlanta Football Falcons. I jumped up and down and moon-walked around my television—what a great statement. I am so tickled with Andy Reid, and I'm 99 percent sure that he'll stick to his quote of a four-game suspension with no pay and then not being brought back to the team through the end of the season. I just sincerely hope that this message gets out to each and every player that steps over that line of disrespect for the NFL.

VU: Let's relate this to the Vikings then. Obviously there was a time when people equated Randy Moss to Terrell Owens as the bad-boy receivers. Do you think there was ever a time when the Vikings were fed up with Moss to this point where anybody in the front office or coaching staff really wanted to suspend him?

Yes. There were enough internal distractions throughout the season. As I've said many times, Randy Moss is the best receiver I've ever seen and people are going to say I'm contradicting myself, but the things he did in the locker room were not tolerable. Trading him was the right decision to make. If you think it wasn't the right decision, you think about the distraction of this boat situation at Al and Alma's. That has been such a distraction and look at the way they perform with that distraction. It affects a team. A team has got to be in there having fun with football, with their life, not constantly being on a roller coaster ride. During your free, fun time, you're getting drilled about an event where a few ball players made a terrible decision.

VU: Was there ever anything in your playing days that turned out to be this big of a distraction, and if not do you think it's just because the media coverage is so great today?

The media, it's getting ridiculous, from going through the garbage cans when they throw trash out to even Channel 9 covering the Gophers hockey team going undercover at the different bars. It's absolutely ridiculous what the media is doing. Back in the old days, what would happen is the owners had a little more control without the unions and you didn't have to go A, B, C, D to get rid of a player. In many situations, there were things going on with the Minnesota Vikings organization that some players were very disruptive. But it was amazing—the time the organization found out that they were disruptive, it was parallel with them having a bad game and since they had a bad game they were released—quite a coincidence. And during that era, a lot of us picked up a message that was seemingly delivered.

VU: Did you see a lot of progress on the defensive line against Detroit? If so, do you think it is because of going back to the 4-3 or do you think it was just because they were playing Detroit?

The improvement on the defensive line was rather obvious. They say they're running the same formations and the same type of defense, but I just saw a great vertical explosion. They were really working North instead of doing too much laterally down the line of scrimmage. They were initiating the contact; they weren't catching it as much. Even on the pass rush, I saw about three or four spins, and I know the coaches aren't really into spin moves. I just think it's absolutely a great change of pace. You can't have it as a steady diet, because for a few games during my career I did that for a steady diet and I learned that lesson big-time. There is a time to use it and a time not to use it. They never used it in the past, and now they are using it and I thought they got great results with it and good pressure with it. More importantly, it gives the offensive linemen a little more to think about. Also, I think the part I was really excited about is that they kept Kevin Williams at a tackle. Kevin Williams is a Pro Bowl tackle. Please do not play him at end. Certain players have certain positions and you better leave them there.

VU: Erasmus James got his first start and more playing time in the first half, but after the game he denied to me having an injury but said the coaches told him they thought his leg was bothering him. What do you think of his progress and that situation?

Sometimes rookies, when they come into the league, their body language is really, really against them. I know Mike Tice wants them to play tough football, and that's the way you have to play. That's why Mike played 14 years in the league—a tough mental attitude. A lot of times these rookies come in and their body language absolutely kills them. If they're slightly injured, the decision between the coaches and trainers, they have to watch them and they put the coaches in an awkward position where they have to play them less or put them in defenses where they don't have to stretch it out with a hamstring. I think it's a communication problem where Erasmus says ‘I'm 100 percent, I feel great,' but he has that body language that tells you that something is wrong.

VU: There is a school of thought that says that with all the problems the Vikings have had on the road in the last few years, with all the problems they have with the New York Giants, maybe having Brad Johnson start is actually better because he doesn't bring that negative history to the outdoor games as opposed to Daunte Culpepper. What's your take on that?

The thing with having Brad in there, I think he'll be able to sustain some drives, where he won't have too many three-and-outs. They'll use a lot of the clock because the Giants defense is not that strong—they're just two slots ahead of the Vikings—so that makes a difference. It was kind of interesting that he was talking about when he was in Tampa they never won when it was under 40 degrees. Then they won two games under 40 degrees and they won one at 15 degrees and that took care of that. As players start to believe they can do it, it's the same with this on-the-road situation. You've got to believe it. I think Brad has used some parallels that have really gotten some of these young ball players' attention. I think that's going to play in on Sunday. I picked them on my show that they'd win, and everybody said, ‘Oh, hello, Homer Bob. You're back.' That was before Fred Smoot got hurt, but with the game plan I see them being very, very competitive in Giants Stadium.

VU: Were you surprised to see how well Michael Bennett did last week?

Everybody knows Michael Bennett has been on the trading block for awhile, but he has that tremendous speed and he has the running ability. There used to be big holes when he played at Wisconsin, where he played college ball. In the pros, you get more of a seam and I think last week the offensive line played so well that they created some holes rather than seams. He took advantage of those. On two different occasions, I thought he waited for the hole to open, where earlier he may have just hit what he thought was going to be a hole that never developed.

VU: If Mewelde is able to go, which it looks like he'll be able to do, what would you do? Would you start Mewelde?

You start Mewelde. I think Mewelde is telling Mike Tice, ‘Alright, Mike, you think I'm not a tough kid, now here I want to play. I'm hurt but I want to play. I love this game. I want to be in this league for 10 or 12 years.' Mewelde is showing a great, positive attitude in addressing an injury and I think he should be rewarded for that.

VU: You played for the Vikes and you played for the Giants. As an organization, when you compare big market to medium market, what are the differences in the way that they are able to operate their organizations and the media market? Does it make a difference in football?

When I played for both the clubs, the media here is nothing compared to what you have in New York. Here, they might have 10 or 12 people back in the locker room. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was in New York, we'd have 50 people around as far as media goes because there were so many different publications and you were on constantly and the Giants were kind of the Mecca of the NFL. They give you more leeway in the New York, where here the media wants to dig further and go beyond what the normal national coverage would be. The New York Giants, they have pure football fans and they go after the game itself. Here, you don't have as many writers covering you, but yet they want to seem to get more on the personal level of it rather than sticking with pure football. The New York Giants fans are history buffs; they know everything about the New York Football Giants. You can't argue with a Giants fan because he has all the answers. They are unbelievable. That's their whole life and football started out in New York with Wellington Mara and that group. Everywhere you went, there was media, but they didn't really want to get in your personal life. They respected your personal life. They treated you as a celebrity and give you certain fringe benefits because you gave so much back to the community. Anywhere you'd go, they knew you were a New York Giant, they'd gratis you and put you at the head of the line. If you'd say, ‘No, I'll get in the back of the line,' they'd say, ‘No, you won't. It's an honor to have you here.'

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 monthly column appears in the magazine.

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