Notebook: LB Farwell Keeps Proving Value

Undrafted linebacker Heath Farwell continued to increase his value in 2006, leading the Vikings in special teams tackles after an impressive defensive showing during the preseason. Now the scrappy player is hoping for a free agent contract offer from the front office. See what he had to say about the situation.

Linebacker Heath Farwell is well aware of his role on the Vikings, but that doesn't mean he can't strive for more.

The undersized fireplug — he is the shortest and lightest of the Vikings' linebackers at 6-foot-0, 235 pounds — knows his bread is buttered on special teams, but he was out to prove in the 2006 offseason and preseason that he could play on defense if needed.

"I think I played really well in the preseason and I think I gave them some security if anything were to ever happen to E.J. (Henderson)" said Farwell, who easily led the Vikings with 32 tackles and added a sack, forced fumble, quarterback hurry along with two passes defensed and two tackles for losses in the preseason.

Rookie safety Greg Blue and veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield were the next closest preseason tacklers with 13.

Still, Farwell has no illusions of breaking into the starting lineup anytime soon after the Vikings handed E.J. Henderson a five-year, $25 million contract extension in December..

"Obviously, E.J. is an unbelievable player. They're not going to replace him with me — that's realistic," Farwell said. "But I wanted to prove myself in the preseason that I could play linebacker in this league, not just special teams. Then if E.J. ever went down, they'd feel comfortable and confident that I could step in and do the job."

The Vikings will have some interesting decisions to make at linebacker in the next seven weeks. Farwell, with two years of NFL service, is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning the Vikings can retain his services with a qualifying offer.

In front of him, however, the team will have to make a decision on whether or not to re-sign middle linebacker Napoleon Harris, an unrestricted free agent. Considering the team has already locked up strongside starter Ben Leber and weakside starter Henderson for the next four to five years, respectively, and have 2006 first-round draft pick Chad Greenway waiting the wings, the team's biggest offseason decision on defense will be at linebacker.

Farwell realized that each time he played defense in the preseason or special teams in the regular season it was a tryout in front of the Vikings and the other 31 NFL teams.

"Every game you're getting evaluated. … Obviously there are a lot of scouts looking at every game, our scouts and every team is looking at every game," said Farwell, who has played middle and strongside linebacker as well, "but given my size, weak side is probably more realistic."

He wasn't aware of any contract talks between his agent and the team at the end of the season, but it's a decent bet that the team will offer its regular-season leader in special teams tackles (25 of them) another shot to keep proving himself, something all undrafted players want to do.

"It's out of my hands, really," he said of being an exclusive rights free agent. "Just hopefully the Vikings come with a contract for me. You never know what they're thinking or which direction they're going."


  • Pro football registered as the favorite sport of 29 percent of the people polled by Harris Interactive. Baseball came in second (14 percent), followed by college football (13), auto racing (9) and men's pro basketball (7). According to Harris, the NFL has been the most popular sport in America for the last four decades.

    "The NFL is well beyond sports," John Rash of the Campbell Mithun media-buying agency in Minneapolis said in a league press release. "It is a national phenomenon."

  • Harris' results were reflected in television viewership this season. The NFL announced that viewership increased for each of the league's television partners for the first time since 2002. NFL games on CBS, FOX and NBC averaged 16.3 million viewers — 66 percent higher than the primetime average for shows on the four major over-the-air networks (9.8 million average). According to Nielsen Media Research, 222 million Americans (up from 195.8 million in 2005) — or approximately three-quarters of the U.S. population — watched NFL games in 2006.

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