Sunday Notebook: Hutch working as player rep

Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson is taking on more of a leadership role as the Vikings' representative to the NFL Players Association. He weighed in with his thoughts on the current labor situation. Plus, we have notes and quotes on Jared Allen (the real one and the other real one), Donald Penn (who?), Eben Britton and more.

Steve Hutchinson may be a veteran of the league – and of Pro Bowl selections – but he is just entering his rookie season as the Vikings' player representative to the NFL Players Association. Make no mistake, this is a very important time for the players union.

Transitioning from the late executive director, Gene Upshaw, who died last summer, to newly elected head of the union DeMaurice Smith is only part of the challenge. The league will have an uncapped season in 2010 if there is no extension to the collective bargaining agreement before the start of free agency next year.

Hutchinson attended the NFLPA meetings in Hawaii earlier this year as sort of an assistant to Darren Sharper, who was the team's player rep before signing a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints. Hutchinson said his confidence level is high that an extension to the CBA could get done on time.

"It's very high. I think everybody wants the same thing. You want peace. You want to play football," Hutchinson said. "You want this business to be a great business and the best team sport out there. And I think everybody, fans included, want that."

Without a new deal before the start of free agency next year (presumably in late February or early March 2010), the league is still scheduled to play next year, but a number of new rules regarding salary and structure would go into place. Besides have no salary cap for players, there would be no salary floor either. Players would also have to wait six years to become unrestricted free agents, as opposed to the four years they currently have to serve. The biggest issue, at least in the media, is the potential for no cap.

"I can't speak for the players," Hutchinson said when asked about that possibility. "I'm not going to get into that. I don't know. There's so many little things involved in that. That's something that we're going to have to see. It's a give-and-take game. We're negotiating a lot of these issues, and we may or may not work out each the way we want to."

Hutchinson admitted that the players are in a bit of a transition phase right now as the union shifts from one leader to another, but he didn't express any concerns with Smith at the helm.

"I don't think you're going to see too many policy changes. He's kind of got his transition team together," Hutchinson said. "Now what they're doing in Washington is figuring out where the union is in-house and they're probably going to make changes to what they feel is going to be the best for the union and the players. And obviously the big thing on the plate is the owners opted out of the CBA, so their main goal is to begin to start a labor peace process where we can get back into a CBA."


Most hardcore Vikings fans remember Tyler Thigpen slipping away from the Vikings' grasp in 2007 and had some level of angst over it. He was going to be their late-round steal of a quarterback that could become the offense's savior … or something like that. The Vikings tried to slip Thigpen through waivers at the end of preseason in 2007 after drafting him in the seventh round.

The only problem was that the Vikings had scrimmaged Kansas City during training camp and the Chiefs liked him enough to sign him to the 53-man roster, thereby scuttling the Vikings' plans. Thigpen went on to play in one game in 2007 but started 11 of the 14 games he played in last year. He threw for 2,608 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 76 passer rating, right about where Tarvaris Jackson is for his career (although he had a rating of 95.4 last year).

But Thigpen may not have been the biggest story of the Vikings losing a low-level roster player that made good elsewhere. In 2006, the Vikings had offensive tackle Donald Penn on their practice squad and it appeared to be another case of a developmental player biding his time. Somehow, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw it differently, signing him to their 53-man.

Penn didn't play a game for the Bucs that year, but he started 12 games in 2007, all 16 last year and played so well that that Tampa Bay put the high tender on him as a restricted free agent, meaning another team would have to give up first- and third-round picks to sign him. Not a bad stock increase for a former undrafted rookie.

Penn signed that tender this week and now he'll be paid a base salary of $2.792 for 2009.

The Vikings faced Penn last year and he held pass-rushing defensive end Jared Allen without a sack –Allen had three tackles (including one for a loss). Minnesota, meanwhile, is likely looking to draft a tackle.


Eben Britton, an offensive tackle from Arizona who is expected to be a first-round draft pick, visited with the Vikings earlier this month and told Pro Football Weekly about the visit.

"The Vikings emphasize they want hard-working, focused, disciplined players who aren't going to make a lot of noise off the field. They want guys who, as coach Brad Childress puts it, ‘have a certain fiber running through them that helps them distinguish between right and wrong.'" Britton said.

"I met with Coach Childress. He just seems like a guy who really cares about his players, who's going to coach you hard but at the same time be completely honest with you. One of the things he said was: ‘Every man just wants to know where he stands. Whether that's telling a guy he did a great job or getting on his butt, we're very honest. He also said he isn't going to be seduced by great athleticism if it comes in a guy who's making a lot of trouble off the field. I really respect that."


Vikings fans like their Jared Allen. Did you know there is another Jared Allen who recently attended Idaho State (the alma mater of the Vikings' Jared Allen)?

This one works at a title company. We'll call him Title Allen. Well, it seems Title Allen has to deal with the occasional and understandable confusion created by the plight of his name and location, as chronicled in this blog from southeast Idaho.

"Yeah, it happens a lot. It makes me (feel) like Michael Bolton from ‘Office Space.' I normally just laugh," Title Allen told Kellis Robinett for his blog. "People usually get pretty excited and say, ‘Wow you look a lot bigger on TV.' That's the first thing they usually tell me. I'd say it happens a few times a month. It was a lot more in high school, when he was here and getting in trouble for DUIs all the time. That's how I heard about him. But now, I just laugh, talk a little football and go on my way."

The Vikings' Allen has apparently put his alcohol-related troubles in the past. Ironically, Title Allen would be interested in starting a brew pub if he made the kind of money the Vikings' Allen makes, averaging $12 million per season over a six-year contract. Title Allen told the story of a woman working for his car-insurance company in Kansas City who realized the irony in the names and location.

"She had all these questions and I had no idea what to tell her," Title Allen said. But the name recognition might still help Idaho State's football recruiting, even if it isn't THE Jared Allen who is being referenced.

"I am friends with a few players on Idaho State's football team, and one of them who I grew up with down the street from has told me that he'll tell recruits that he grew up with Jared Allen and they'll get all excited," Title Allen said. "He'll tell them that he hangs out with Jared Allen and could introduce them if they wanted. Then eventually he'll let them down and tell them the Jared Allen he knows is just me. That's pretty funny, I think."

Many people have probably had a story from the same-name genre of strange-but-true stories. In fact, there was a third Jared Allen that tried to make it in the NFL in 2006 as a quarterback, signing a futures contract with Tampa Bay. And there is a fourth Jared Allen that writes about Capitol Hill.

Chances are, none of them have the jersey-selling power of the Vikings' Jared Allen, who was scheduled to make an appearance at Idaho State spring game this weekend and institute the "Jared Allen Defensive Player of the Year" award "for the player that best exemplified the desire and tenacity of Allen during his playing days," according to the Idaho State web site.

Maybe Title Allen finally got to meet the Vikings' version.

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