Lurtsema's reaction: Tips, tells, concussions

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema gives his take on the team's poor performance against the Cardinals, who needs to step up, how defenders get tells from offensive players and the concussion issue sweeping the league. Find out his opinions inside.

VU: Brad Childress thought that the Arizona Cardinals were more physical and "out-tempo'd" the Vikings. What did you see in that game since you were there?

BL: I thought Arizona came up with a really good defensive game plan the way they were working their safeties and also the different blitzes as far as the linebackers up front. They also really shut down the run. You can always rely on Brett Favre, but when you only get 19 yards on 13 carries from Adrian Peterson, that's something to be concerned with. I'll be looking to see if Cincinnati can duplicate any of the coverages or stunts that Arizona ran. As far as the effort, it's tough to judge that and it's tough to win in the National Football League. Look at Cleveland beating Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh beats the Vikings, but then Cleveland and Oakland both beat Pittsburgh. Go figure. The Vikings have too much talent to push the panic button, but I want to see how the coaches respond to what the Bengals might bring on Sunday.

VU: Do you think that Peterson is having a down year or are expectations so high that when he doesn't get a 100-yard game people think something is wrong?

BL: He's that rare commodity. He's young. And I think when he has a game where he's only averaging 1.5 yards and there are no holes, that's a concern because I consider him the best in the league. If you look at one play-action passes they ran in Arizona, Adrian had a hole you could drive a truck through. You can have a bad day now and then, but I don't see any holes whatsoever. I'm a little concerned.

They say Bryant McKinnie was tipping (off defenders) and Peterson was tipping the way his eyes went. They downplay that, but when I played certain linemen would tip you off to a pass or a run by the way they line up in their stance. We've all seen the football film where they show the knuckles. If the white of the knuckles show then it's going to be a run, and if they're soft on the knuckles – no white – then it's going to be a pass. There is substance to that. Absolutely.

In Seattle, Mike Curtis had a certain read and knew what the play was. We'd come off the called defense. Mike would give me a call and he was one of the smartest linebackers I ever played with. He would give me an automatic call and we'd go against our defensive call. Mike was right. Of course, we got in trouble with the coach and we explained it to him. He said, ‘You can do it, but you'd better be right.' With a veteran team, you can't be a robot. When you know a play is going wide, why are you going to go through with an inside move? I'm not saying if McKinnie or Peterson tipped or not, but when you see a play-pass with that big of a hole, I wonder if there is something going on with the defensive calls.

VU: The coaches talked about Jared Allen getting doubled all the time and how other players have to step up when they get one-on-one blocking. What's your assessment of how Kevin Williams has played so far this year?

BL: I heard a lot of people criticizing Jared Allen and not having any sacks. That man kept the heat on and was fighting through the double teams and makes it look so easy that anybody who has played that position understands how difficult that is. I thought he played well. When he's getting double teams, Kevin Williams, Jimmy Kennedy and Pat Williams have got to pick up and they've got to take advantage of their one-on-one situations. Kevin is a Pro Bowler and I think he was the defensive lineman of the year a couple of times. I have high expectations for Kevin and he's really, really good. You hate to see anybody have a bad day when somebody else is getting double-teamed, but everybody has a bad day at work and you can't always play at that high of a level. When you are a Pro Bowler, you set the scale for yourself and when it drops off, people do seem to criticize quickly. I'm not going to do that, because having played that, it's tough down there in the pits.

VU: How much do think the defense is going to be affected by the loss of E.J. Henderson?

BL: Huge. E.J. was such a big difference in there. Jasper Brinkley, no matter what you say, he's still a rookie with not a lot of experience. That's going to have a huge, huge effect on the defense and we'll see how it comes out against the Bengals. E.J. was having such a great year and he still wasn't 100 percent. He was almost back to 100 percent, but he was still just a tad off from his injury from last year. He's the best I've seen in years. I sure hope he comes back. It looks pretty good for him to come back because I know he'll work hard at it and he has a tremendous attitude. But it's a big-time hit.

VU: Another injury-type situation that is getting a lot more attention around the league is the concussion issue. It seems like teams are being much more cautious with those, as Anthony Herrera sat out two weeks following his. What are your thoughts on that whole issue?

BL: I'm part of a study with Dr. Amen. They are trying to get 100 NFL players to do brains scans. The awareness is the highest it's ever been. Even with the research they are doing, like with Wally Hilgenberg's brain, they can actually pinpoint his eight concussions – where he had them. I've had three concussions that I know of and my brain scan pointed out exactly where my brain trauma is. You worry about dementia and Alzheimer's. They can tell you whether you have it or not and it's scary because you don't really want to know the truth sometimes. When you get older, your memory is going to vacillate at times anyway. I'm glad they are watching it. When they can pinpoint exactly where the brain trauma is and pinpoint the concussion, you know there is substance to it.

Talking to Hererra, I told him to be careful because I've seen it with friends of mine. Some think ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) is the direct result of concussions. They say it makes you suicidal and you have tremendous mood swings. They can tell you if you have autism or whether you're an over-focused wife or an under-focused husband. It amazes me what they can know now with a brain scan and the direct relationship football and concussions have on it. When you're a player and you're that young and have a concussion, you think you're invincible – big deal, you're a little dizzy. I talked myself back into a game in the middle of the second quarter and didn't come out of it until just as we walked onto the field for the third quarter. I watched myself on film and it was kind of fun rooting for myself. I talked myself right back into the game because I could answer their questions about the defense.

But as players, don't cry for us. We loved what we were doing and if it shortens my life by five years, it's worth it. I think the majority of players feel the same way. But if you can avoid it, and that's where the league's focus is right now, God bless the National Football League.


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.

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