New York Jets coach Herman Edwards recently went on somewhat of a verbal tirade when a reporter asked him if, because of the team's troubles, he was concerned about losing his players or that they wouldn't give maximum effort on Sundays.
The Minnesota Vikings are in a situation they haven't become accustomed to. Even though they finished 5-11 a year ago, the months of November and December have traditionally been months for the Vikings to jockey not only for a playoff berth, but a division title and possibly home-field advantage in the playoffs.
There will be no talk of playoffs this year. But the season, players say, is far from lost. Even though the Vikings know their season will end at about 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 29, much is on the line during the final six weeks of the year.
"Your job. It's that plain and simple," veteran safety Ronnie Bradford said. "Every time you play on Sunday it's part of your résumé. You're putting your résumé out there. Some of the guys around here are in long-term contracts and there are players like myself in short-term contracts, so what you're doing is building a résumé for next year.
"If you go out there and just blow off the season, everybody is going to see you out there on the field and how you didn't perform. They see that and they're not going to want to give you a shot next time. Guys have to go out there individually and play for their jobs and to make a respectable résumé. Teams are going to take a look at them, and the team they're playing for right now is looking at them."
Bradford knows the Vikings defense is a prime example. The Vikings had planned on moving Corey Chavous from cornerback to safety in the coming offseason. Those long-range plans become immediate action items as Chavous is starting at strong safety Sunday against the Packers.
For the rest of the season, the Vikings secondary, for example, will be a seven-week-long job interview for several players. So far this season, Eric Kelly, Brian Williams, Tyrone Carter, Brian Russell and Willie Offord have all been shuttled in and out as starters in the secondary as the coaching staff attempts to find the right pieces to the puzzle. That juggling act will continue to be under the microscope not only in the secondary, but other areas as well, as the Vikings continue to build for the future.
"Every team evaluates at the end of the season," Bradford said. "If they feel that you weren't in a position where you were giving your all, that's going to come into consideration when they think about either trying to renegotiate a new contract or giving you a new contract.
"Guys are trying to put a good notch on their résumé. If they don't, they might not have a job next year."
Luckily for the Vikings, the desire to win has not been questioned.
"Guys want to win," defensive tackle Chris Hovan said. "We want to go out each day in practice and prove ourselves to each team in the league. We just have to make big plays in the games."
Players realize their jobs are not only on the line on Sundays but throughout the week. It is the entire package of practice, preparation and game performance that contributes to individual success. It's that same combination where players get evaluated.
The microscope isn't simply plugged in from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
"From Wednesday to Sunday, that's the most important part," Bradford said. "I've never been around an atmosphere like this, but trust me, there are Minnesota Vikings fans in that stadium that want to win that game just as bad as I do, if not worse.
"But it's in the week of preparing — what have you done during the week to prepare for the game? That's what gets good teams and great teams in the hunt — preparing yourself for that Sunday. So when things happen that were unexpected, they're not such a surprise.
"It's preparing yourself. I've always thought this: Everybody wants to win, but what have they done in the week prior to prepare themselves to win?"
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