Notebook: Aggressive Philly attitude rubs off

Artis Hicks spent four years in the Philadelphia area, and that experience turned a southern gentleman into an aggressive man, at least on the roads. He says that same Philly attitude rubs off on their defensive philosophy.

All week long, the Vikings have been talking about the Philadelphia Eagles' aggressive defense under coordinator Jim Johnson.

Artis Hicks, the Vikings' offensive lineman who spent his first four season in the NFL in Philadelphia, sees a correlation between the attitude of the Philadelphia-area fans and their football team.

"The fans there, they're much more aggressive and I think they want to be represented by an aggressive team," Hicks said. "So many fans live sports through the Vikings and they want their attitudes to be reflected by the team. I think that's why Philly is so aggressive, always plays hard. They're always clawing and scratching and trying to find a way to win because that's the attitude of the fans and the people that live there. Those guys are survivors."

Vikings coach Brad Childress said Jim Johnson's aggressive, blitzing attitude could be as much a product of Johnson's tenured status in the league as anything.

"He's developed (his blitzes) over a career and spends a great amount of time on it. He attacks protections. He attacks formations. He attacks personnel groupings. It's very wide-ranging," Childress said. "He's got some of those retirement blitzes – you know, where if Leslie (Frazier) ran it here you know they might say that's not sound with 10 guys on one side and one on the other. You know they might say that guy's not very good. … (Johnson) can do some things that are unique, if you will, and usually does."

While Hicks sees a similarly aggressive attitude in the Philadelphia fan, they aren't bad people, just very passionate people, he said.

"The Philly attitude is what it is. Some people think they're bad people. They're great people. They are great people, they're just fanatics," he said. "They love the Eagles. They're a group of people, but they're good people. I remember going out and everybody knew who you were and you wouldn't pay for meals. You wouldn't pay for anything. They'd just tell you, ‘Hey, good luck on Sunday. Your money's not worth anything here.' I miss those days."

Hicks said that hasn't happened since he moved to Minnesota, but the aggressive driving style he learned in Philadelphia doesn't wash here either. He learned that lesson shortly after he arrived in Minnesota in 2006.

"I was going on 35W and I was just jumping lane to lane and people were blowing their horns at me. I was like. ‘What's going on?' But in Philly, if you turn your turn signal on to get in a lane, people will speed up on you to close the lane so you can't get in front of them."

Hicks said his aggressive driving style followed him when he went back south after a season in Philadelphia. It isn't commonplace there, either, he said, and his mother was quick to find out first-hand about the Philadelphia way.

When Hicks first moved to Philly, his parents went to the grocery store. When Hicks returned home, his mother was waiting for him with a question: "She said, ‘What's wrong with people up here?' I said, ‘What do you mean?' (She replied), ‘We were in the grocery store and people were cutting me off left and right. I spoke and nobody spoke.'

"We're from down south, you know, the southern hospitality thing, and she got a taste of Philadelphia and she didn't like it. It takes a little getting adjusted to, but once you get adjusted to it, it's alright and it becomes part of you."

Hicks' mother may not have gotten much response from Philadelphia residents in the grocery store, but Childress said they aren't exactly a quiet group.

"They're not short on opinions, I don't think. They have a passion, just like the people here have a passion," he said.

Another difference between Minnesota and Philadelphia is the number of fans that turn out for a typical training camp. The Vikings might draw a couple thousand fans on a good day. The Eagles can attract 25,000, and some of them don't hesitate to publicly hold the players to a high standard.

"(Their passion is) there 24-7 and it's there whether you go to a St. Patrick's party or a Christmas party or the middle of the summertime or 25,000 strong at training camp at 8 in the morning with a beer," Childress said. "And you know (there's always) a colorful comment for somebody who drops a ball in a one-on-one drill. I mean, it's unique from that standpoint."

Childress talked about a lineup of cars that shut down a freeway near training camp one year. Chances are, that was the year that mercurial wide receiver Terrell Owens arrived in Philadelphia.

"It was unbelievable. It was like a college game with the amount of fans that showed up for every practice. The year that T.O. came to town, it was ridiculous. There were so many people there, I think it was averaging 200,000," Hicks said.

And then there are the comparisons of head coaches. If Vikings fans thought that Brad Childress was "flat-line" guy, they might not have had enough exposure to Andy Reid's ways in Philadelphia.

"As far as personalities, they're night and day," Hicks said. "Coach Reid is more reserved. He doesn't really talk much. When he talks, you pay attention to what he says because he hardly talks. Coach Childress is a psychology major and he's always trying o engage you in deep thought. If you have a one-on-one conversation with him, you kind of leave the conversation like, ‘Hmmmm' and scratching your head. They are night and day as far as their personalities."

Hicks tried to tell his Vikings teammates about Childress being more reserved when he first arrived in Minnesota via a trade. But the Childress that Hicks knew as an assistant in Philadelphia wasn't the Childress that was the new head coach in Minnesota.

He had to become more of a take-charge talker as a head coach versus an offensive coordinator who just installed his ideas occasionally in Philadelphia. While Childress was diplomatic in his description of Philadelphia fans, he may have bucked the trend and become more aggressive in his attitude once he came to Minnesota.

Whatever the case with Childress' personality, Hicks summed up his feelings succinctly on the Philadelphia attitude.

"It makes for a great atmosphere for a football game," he said, "but I couldn't live there."

NOTES

  • Childress said Ryan Cook would start at right tackle in place of Hicks, who has been dealing with a triceps/elbow injury.

  • DE Ray Edwards has only "a small chance to be able to participate this weekend, according to Childress. Edwards suffered a knee injury on Sunday.

  • To enforce the quality of competition the Vikings are facing on Sunday, Childress emphasized a few statistics. Defensively, he pointed to the Eagles' 29 turnovers and 115 points off turnovers and the Eagles being the four-least penalized team in the league. They are fifth in points allowed and third in quarterback sacks while allowing only a 32-percent conversion rate on third downs.

    Offensively, he talked about them being seventh in points and fifth with 1,700 yards after the catch. The Eagles have scored 50 points in the two minutes before a half, according to Childress.

  • Childress confirmed that the Lions have expressed an interest in interviewing defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier for Detroit's head-coaching vacancy. No interview has been scheduled yet. No other teams have inquired about Frazier, according to Childress.


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