Notebook: Hovan maturing down South

Former Viking Chris Hovan will get a chance to face a few former teammates, like Matt Birk and Gus Frerotte, but Hovan is happier and more productive in Tampa. Plus, get notes and quotes from several players and coaches before this important NFC matchup.

Chris Hovan left Minnesota after the 2004 season and had little to say to reporters looking for a comment from him at the end-of-season packing day. He left the Vikings locker room and continued to say, "Goodbye, Minnesota" – leaving little hope that he would re-sign with the Vikings as an impending free agent.

Today, Hovan will be saying, "Hello, Vikings" when the Tampa Bay Bucs defensive tackle meets his former team.

"It was a tough situation for me. I was younger. I was going through a lot and I don't know if I knew how to handle it all time the right way. I am growing up," Hovan said this week on a conference call with Minnesota reporters. "I am maturing, and being around guys like Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber – there is a different type of leadership down here than there was in Minnesota. I got down here and I started listening and learning how to act and learning how to be a professional, just getting the opportunity to come down here. It was tough my last year; I'm not going to lie.

"Certain things happened – I got deactivated (and) I didn't get along with the head coach (Mike Tice). It happens. It's in the past and I can't take it back. I don't even know if I would take it back because it led me to be where I am now."

Hovan has started every game for the Bucs this year and leads their defensive linemen and ranks seventh on the team with 42 tackles. He declined to talk about other specific issues that troubled him in Minnesota, but he is happy to be on a team that emphasizes defense (he left Minnesota back when offense ruled the roost) and uses him differently.

"The difference is the speed down here. It's not a big-man's defense. It's predicated on getting to the ball and speed. I felt like that fit my qualities," he said. "It's a little more double-teams, but at the same time they are allowing me to run and make plays. … I was kidding myself my last year in Minnesota when I was trying to play heavier. I am better – more compact – at 300-305."

"He has some first-step quickness and he has also got great power," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said of Hovan, the Bucs' defensive captain this year. "He has muscles in the back of his head. He plays with really good leverage. He understands blocking schemes. He understands his role in this defense. He is a very reliable, hard-nosed football player that brings it every snap. Those are the kind of guys that we like here."

TOUGH TO SACK

On the other side of the ball is another former Viking – albeit far less known. Tampa Bay's starting left tackle is Donald Penn, who spent the 2006 offseason with the Vikings after signing as an undrafted free agent.

While Penn is not a big name among NFL left tackles, he is part of an offensive line that has surrendered an impressive 10 sacks in nine games.

"They work well together. They've only give up about 10 sacks this year," said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who will face Penn throughout the game. "A lot of that has to do with how they attack people. Short passing game and run game. Week in and week out, what we do is going to dictate the results."

Allen and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said the low sack total for the Bucs is also a product of a veteran quarterback like Jeff Garcia getting rid of the ball quickly.

"Garcia does not hold onto the football, so it will be a challenge for us to do exactly what you said - generate pressure with our front and understand their offense," Frazier said. "They really pride themselves on not giving up sacks and getting the ball out quick. They've been successful in doing that."

Allen said the key to the pressure the Vikings have generated in the last few games has been forcing teams into passing situations.

"These last three or four weeks, we've really been getting a rhythm going," he said. "We've been able to put teams in a position where they have to drop back and pass. We've been able to get some one-on-one opportunities, so it's been great."

ALL-TIME OLD-TIMERS

The Bucs roster is dotted with some old-timers who are still playing at a productive level.

On defense, that includes CB Ronde Barber (12th season), LB Derrick Brooks (14th year) and DE Kevin Carter (14th year).

"I'm trying to get to year six. That's all I'm trying to do. I'm not looking that far ahead," Allen said when asked about Carter's longevity. "The average is just about three years, so anything over that and you're stealing years. You've got a lot of respect for those guys – guys that have been in there 10, 13, 14 years – good for them."

Vikings receiver Bobby Wade said that Barber and seventh-year pro Phillip Buchanon are playmaking cornerbacks.

"They are very (much) ballhawks. They'll jump off certain routes to do things," Wade said. "A lot of their stuff is similar to what Charles Woodson did. He'll jump off another guy to cover another guy. A lot of that stuff is just individual effort on their part and a lot of it we can control with the looks and decisions and things like that."

ALL-DAY SWEETNESS?

Frazier, who played cornerback for the Chicago Bears in 1985 when teammate Walter Payton was dominating the league and the team was on the way to winning the Super Bowl, was told that Sport Illustrated's Peter King compared Adrian Peterson to Payton.

"That's a big statement, now, because in my mind, he's the greatest ever. He could just do so many things. He was a great player blocking, catching, running, throwing. I mean he would play quarterback for us. (He was) just a super athlete," Frazier said of the late Payton. "But Adrian, I mean he's a guy, if he can withstand the test of time, he'll end up being just as good, if not better. He's a special, special talent, just like Walter was. Now, you have to put it in perspective. Walter, I think, missed just one game in his career of 13 years or whatever it was. Every game, he just played at such a high level for a long time. It's hard for running backs today to sustain, at least it seems that way. He was playing in an era where you weren't splitting time with backs. It was just Walter Payton. Everybody knew it was going to be Walter Payton every single down. But you can't dismiss what Adrian has done in one-and-a-half years. It's incredible. There's a lot more to come, I hope."

Frazier was then asked how he would approach tackling Peterson if he had to play against him today.

"Oh boy, I'm just so glad I never have that task. I like my seat right now where I don't have to tackle Adrian Peterson," he said. "I don't know if there is one way to get it done. These guys are pretty good athletes playing today and they have trouble doing it. I have no idea how to tackle Adrian. He's special."

END QUOTE

Vikings coach Brad Childress, on if he feels compelled to look at the Vikings' not-so-impressive history playing in Tampa before Childress arrived in Minnesota: "Not unless there was an eclipse of the sun, an earthquake, or a plane had to crash-land. I don't think there was anything of biblical proportions that happened there, aside from getting beat. I'm more worried about us getting ready for Tampa Bay, the 2008 team.


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