Lurtsema's Reaction: On The Line

When it comes to team needs, former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema talks about winning up front and with defense, although he sees plenty of needs on offense. He also talks about the futures of defensive linemen Erasmus James and Pat Williams.

VU: First, do you want to explain your comments from the Star Tribune article on your frustration with the franchise?

BL: The article was written with total frustration, and that was the feeling that basically the fans feel. Their frustrated because they're not really understanding the direction of the organization because Brad Childress holds everything so confidential that they draw their own conclusions and they have no substance to build a strong foundation because of what Brad's holding back from them. A coach should hold back certain things, but he's held back so much that he really hasn't given any foundation of the future to the season-ticket holders. I'm speaking for myself, but also for a tremendous amount of season-ticket holders. I feel that the situation here is that if they don't come up with a blockbuster trade before draft time … something's got to happen to bring back the energy for the fans.

VU: Going to personnel and the draft, what do you see as their greatest needs after the releasing of players and bringing in of others?

As far as bringing players in, I know there were some players that took less money to go other places. But if you look at last year with their open-checkbook policy, their offensive line should be etched in stone, but it's not. They're not solid up front. The receiver situation, I can't see the receivers being a top-notch corps. You don't really have any great receiver right now, and the quarterback situation with Tarvaris Jackson, it's three to five years to groom a quarterback. He was not a record-setter, 6-foot-5 genius with a 100-yard throwing arm. That's the only one I think could step in that strong with two games under his belt. So you're hurting at quarterback, you have no great running back, you have basically no strong receivers and they're still searching on the offensive line after spending a hundred million between two players – Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson. You win up front. Offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. You know that. So being a defensive guy, you've got to go with a good, strong pass rusher – someone who can step in there right now and get the job done. I do think they have strong enough linebackers and Antoine Winfield, he's a ballplayer.

VU: What about Erasmus James? Childress has said James will probably be ready in some capacity for training camp but might not be full-go. How much do you think they can count on him, and then before the injury, what did you see as his potential as a pass rusher?

Before the injury, I saw him really coming on. He really took to Mike Tomlin and Karl Dunbar. He really took to them because they let him go to his natural instincts and he was playing great. So he's got to be uninhibited. A good pass rusher is uninhibited between the ears. Tomlin gave him that freedom, which he didn't have that first year. He'll be ready for the season. When you scrape a knee like that, that's pretty basic. The only thing is, with scar tissue, you can't push it as much as you can with a ligament. You have to watch the swelling. If he doesn't have a lot of pain … that's all you have to worry about.

VU: They are talking about extending Pat Williams' contract. How much more do you think Pat Williams has in him, and are you surprised that a guy his size and his age is still able to play at the level he did last year?

The prime of a defensive lineman is 28 to 33 years of age, and Pat Williams (who is 34) has such great instincts getting off the ball and everything. To play at 35 or 36 – I was 36 when I retired and probably could have played another year – if you keep yourself in shape, the age factor really won't grab you as quick as if you let yourself go. I think Pat Williams should play two or three more years easily because he is a limited ballplayer. By limited I mean he's only playing a certain percent of the game, so it's not like you have to tear his body down week in and week out. The only thing he's got to worry about for the wear and tear on his body is the weight. He could play two or three years easily, but I'd have a clause in there as far as weight control.

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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