Wide receiver Koren Robinson was almost out of the league for good after ruining his chances in Seattle with a party lifestyle that included too much booze. Then, after signing with the Vikings and subsequently being released twice in a matter of two weeks this September in an effort rework his contract, Koren Robinson was almost a Packer.
There are a lot of "almosts" in Robinson's life over the past year. He was almost at rock bottom when Mike Tice called and eventually signed Robinson when the former Seattle Seahawk completed his alcohol rehabilitation.
Even Robinson's return to the National Football League was rocky in the first two weeks. He signed with Minnesota on Sept. 7, was released on Sept. 10 so the Vikings wouldn't have to guarantee his salary for the entire season – you know, just in case he had a relapse. He re-signed again the day after the season opener. On Sept. 20, he was released again to redo his contract, and then re-signed later that same day.
But during those contract maneuvers, the Vikings almost lost Robinson to the Green Bay Packers, who were suddenly in need of a go-to receiver when Javon Walker was lost for the season when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the season opener.
"It was tempting, but I felt I had to be loyal to the team that stuck their neck out. So that's why I'm still a Viking," Robinson said.
The Packers would have made a lot of sense for Robinson in those days after the Vikings released him. With Seattle coach Mike Holmgren and Green Bay coach Mike Sherman cut and trained in the same system, Robinson already knew the Packers offense. He also had a good relationship with Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson, who was the front office man in Seattle before moving east.
"It was serious, a great opportunity," Robinson said of talks with the Packers in September. "Under Ted Thompson (in Seattle), they drafted me. So going back there would have been great for me. I'm familiar with the offense back there, playing with Brett Favre. You've got to factor all of that in, but at the end of the day Minnesota came to me when nobody else came – easy decision. You've got to look at everything, but at the end of the day, you've got to be loyal. I had to stick it out."
Even with the Vikings being cautious with his contract and not wanting to guarantee anything to the recovering Robinson, the wide receiver remained loyal. Financially, he would have been ahead in Green Bay. He would have had more playing time. He would have had Brett Favre as a quarterback. He would have had … well, when it came down to it, he simply chose loyalty to the first team that pursued him and he didn't have a hint of regret talking about it Friday at Winter Park as his Vikings prepared to play a team he almost called his own.
"They were going to offer me more there than here, but this year wasn't really about a money issue or anything like that. It was me getting back in and however I can get back in, Minnesota gave me the opportunity and they were the first one to come even with question marks up in the air, whether I was going to get suspended or what was going to happen with my court case."
In reality, Robinson might be in a better position long-term with a one-year deal right now. He has the opportunity to win himself a nice payoff at the end of the season – if only he gets more of an opportunity in the Minnesota offense.
It is, after all, that all-important contract year.
"That's why I'm keeping my nose clean and doing whatever anybody asks me to do," he said. "I feel like I'm a great team player, a great character in the locker room. I feel like I'm bettering myself every day."
That goes for on the field as well.
While he has yet to make a big impact on the offense – only once this season has he caught more than one pass – he is getting better on kickoff returns, something he hadn't done much since his final season at North Carolina State.
He is averaging 26.3 yards on kickoff returns, which ranks fourth in the NFL, something he would like to do even if he could work his way into a starting role.
"If you're a great athlete, the best on the team at it, why not do that for the team. … If I do get a starting job, I would still want to do kickoff return," he said.
There also seems to be a push for Robinson to have a bigger role on offense. So far, the only game in which he has two receptions is the Vikings' win against Green Bay in the Metrodome on Oct. 23, but he says there are more plays this week for him.
"Maybe I'll get a couple more balls for me in the game on Monday night. I feel like once I get the ball in my hand, anything can happen," he said.
Robinson came to the Vikings knowing they had a deep receiving corps, where Nate Burleson was expected to be the No. 1 receiver, and Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson are both first-round draft choices. He came in knowing they would be five deep. He wants more action, but he has been prepared all along to get no snaps, he said.
"I'm not restless because I know what I came in with – the kind of baggage I had – there were still in people's heads question marks. I'm fine with all of that," he said. "I just ask the Lord to keep me healthy and injury-free and I'm going to see what happens at the end of the year."
To date, there are nine Vikings with more receptions that Robinson's five this season. He doesn't have any 100-yard games receiving and doesn't even have 100 yards for the season. For now, however, he seems content that his life away from football is back on track.
"I've just been thinking about myself, thinking more about other people that are in my life – my family, my friends, people around me, my children, whoever," he said. "When you're thinking about that, before you do something or make a decision or act upon something, that'll make you change what you're about to do. That's all I've really done. Anybody could tell you I'm a good person, always been a good person. I have a good heart, caring, but I've just made some bad decisions at certain times."
Mixed Emotions For K-Robinson
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