VU: Assuming that Gus Frerotte isn't back and the Vikings go and sign a top free-agent quarterback like Kurt Warner or Matt Cassel, is a $15 million price tag worth it?
BL: Absolutely. Right now with the economy and the where the Vikings are and the fans are and how they want to be supportive, all the money that Zygi Wilf has spent already – I think it's fantastic what he's doing if he wants to win – if you spend that on a quarterback, you will not have the struggle for season-ticket buyers. And you won't struggle with blackouts like they did last year. If they do not solve that position with a strong, strong QB and you put a pencil to the number of fans you are going to lose, you'd lose more than what it would cost you to sign a Cassel. With Kurt Warner for one year, you'd stick your neck out with Adrian Peterson being in his third year – go with the younger quarterback who reads rather quickly and can read his hots very well. Enough people will tell you whether a quarterback has got ‘it' or not. You have to be selective, but go do it. I'd take Cassel all day long.
VU: Now when you say ‘proven,' Cassel has only done it for a year. Is that enough of a measuring stick for you?
BL: There are very few quarterbacks that can come in there and do it their very first year. Why can some do it in their first year? Because they've got the talent of reading the defense, going through the progressions faster than a lot of other average quarterbacks. They have that special talent that you look for all the time. Not many of them come around. I think I saw Cassel grow after the first couple of games. Of course, Matt Ryan, what he did in Atlanta, those are a couple of special people. If it's a Tom Brady or a Matt Cassel, jump on it. That's a no-brainer.
VU: Coming off a week down at the Senior Bowl, I'm wondering what it was like for you coming out of college in the 1960s? What did you have to do back then to hook on with an NFL team and how has the landscape changed?
BL: The landscape has changed because there are so many different people analyzing you. If you're in a select group, you are lucky enough to be able to go to the Combine and have those tryouts. But it's pretty much the same as far as a college coach giving a recommendation to a player that he likes. When I went to Western Michigan, Bill Doolittle said, ‘Lurtsema's got a chance.' Even though I had come from Michigan Tech and I had a big career there, I was one of those that they scouted when they watched Western play. There were probably four or five guys that got into pro ball from Western Michigan in that two-year span. But the coaches are the ones that initiate that. That has not changed. From the University of Minnesota to Nebraska, the coaches know the scouts. They want the scouts to take their players because it helps their program with seniors from high school that come and know that three or five guys went to the pros. … They never timed us. We got timed in camp. That was a huge thing that Coach (Don) Shula did. They have a lot more connections and Google these ballplayers and learn about them awful quick. That takes the cream and brings it to the top rather quickly.
VU: Leslie Frazier said this week that Madieu Williams was within centimeters of being paralyzed and then we saw the hit that Willis McGahee took in the AFC Championship Game. Is there anything more that the NFL can do to try to protect the players any more or is this just part of the game they'll just have to put up with?
BL: I don't see how they can protect anybody else without putting a skirt on them. I don't mean that in a vicious way or a cocky way. It's just a matter of that's just part of the problem with the injuries. Every player knows they are one play away from ending their career and you don't ever want it to be severe. But they're getting bigger and faster, and when they hit that hard it's going to be there. There's nothing they can do about it.
As far as the players go, that's why they make the big money. Some players get their 10 years in and they're out. Sam Ball, the No. 1 draft choice of the Colts, got the signing bonus and said it's five years and he's out, which he did. Players look at it differently. We all know that you can get hurt, but if you think you're going to get hurt, you are going to get hurt. Once you think you're going to get hurt, get out. You'll be a little less aggressive. You've got to be loosey-goosey. It's not any different than if you hit a guy who knows the punch is coming – if he sticks out his jaw and he knows it's coming you'll break his jaw. If you do the same thing to a guy that's drunk, it will bounce off like you're punching a balloon because you've got that looseness.
VU: What's the worst injury you saw on the field when you were playing?
BL: Probably with the Vikings with John Henry Ward. He was going down and he broke his fibula and tibia. He was heading south and I remember the play, that terrible, terrible sound. The sound was the worst that I heard, just psychologically. A lot of guys don't know this, but (defensive line coach) Jack Patera also broke his leg. He used to have a drill where he pulled the defensive linemen back. He put vests on us and then he had two ropes, like a horse. Jack was about 280 and (Carl) Eller and (Jim) Marshall took off on him as he's holding them. Boom, he snapped and broke his leg. He was out there in a wheelchair and crutches for the rest of the season. It wasn't so funny then, but you could see the bones that literally just snapped. I said, ‘Jack, I've seen this before. Let me snap it back.' He said, ‘Get your blah-blah-blah away from me!' You looked at it and I was like, ‘That's a bad dislocation. Let's put it back in.' Obviously it was a bad break. What did we know? You just look at the thing and it's at a 45-degree angle. You just look at it and want to snap it back in.
On the field one time, I had a dislocated finger that was also totally ripped up. Some of my insides were coming out. I didn't want to go out because it was a third-down play coming up. Richie Harris looked at it and he got so queasy he dropped to his knees and hollered for the official to come over. The official told me to get off the field and go get it fixed. So I had an open cut and it was dislocated. They popped it back in, put a couple of stitches in it and threw me back out there. But it was third-and-long and I wanted to get a sack. When those things happen, it's ‘So what?' It's part of the game. We have feelings and we're sentimental to a lot of things, but when you have injuries out there, that's just part of the big gamut of the greatest game in the world.
Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins VikingUpdate.com for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.
Lurtsema's Reaction: Franchise QBs, injuries
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