With their season over, Vikings players are left to wonder when they might return to work. A…
Rebuilding? Retirement? Pat Williams dishes
Last year at this time, he was pretty sure he would retire at the end of the 2010 season. Now, no such talk. Why the change?
"It was all stressful. You had the chance to go to the Super Bowl (last year). That's what every old-school player wants, what every veteran wants – to go there," Williams said. "At the end of the day, I want to go to a team that's already set. I want to play a role with them, want to go to a team that's already got enough."
Williams thought he would have that Super Bowl dream last year. He envisioned walking off the field after being crowned a Super Bowl champ and throwing pieces of his uniform to fans in the crowd as he walked triumphantly into the sunset. But circumstances change quickly in the course of a year in the NFL.
The Vikings entered the season with Super Bowl dreams. Now, they enter the regular-season finale Sunday in Detroit looking to stay out the basement of the NFC North and end their nightmare season.
Williams never would have envisioned that scenario a few months ago, but it has him thinking differently about the short-term future of the Vikings.
"They're going to be rebuilding around here. It's going to be kind of rough," Williams said. "They've got like 20 free agents on this team. It's going to be rough. It'll be real rough."
The 38-year-old nose tackle wants to find his Super Bowl ring and he's no longer convinced that the Vikings are the team that can provide him that in the coming years, but he's no longer considering retirement. Now he wants to extend his career and he's unsure if the Vikings offer him that championship chance.
"We'll see. I want to see, talk to my agent and see what he says. But I want to win. That's my main focus," he said.
Williams is not ruling out Minnesota for his career extension, but, like every other free-agent-to-be with the team, he hasn't heard if the organization wants to make him a contract offer or let him test the free-agent waters. Without a collective bargaining agreement in place beyond this season, the Vikings have allowed numerous players to get into the final year of their contract. They have more than two dozen players scheduled to be free agents whenever that signing period hits – it usually starts in early March, but it won't begin this year until a new labor agreement is reached between the NFL and its players union.
That leaves Williams among a large group of players unsure of what the future holds.
"They don't really talk to anybody," Williams said. "I'm just one of the old vets, so whatever happens, happens. I'm just happy regardless."
At this point, he just knows he isn't ready for the rocking chair full time.
PRO BOWL REACTION
The Vikings had only one player, Adrian Peterson, named to the initial Pro Bowl roster. Linebacker Chad Greenway was hoping his name would be part of that list for the first time, but now he's left wonder if he might become an alternate if one of the current Pro Bowl linebackers backs out for any number of reasons – injuries, his team is in the Super Bowl or just general lack of interest.
Greenway will take an invitation any way he can get it.
"The reason that would be exciting to me if I got to make it for any other reason other than being on the first ballot is I know those guys are good players, but just because I didn't get mentioned to go to the Pro Bowl or be a Pro Bowler doesn't mean I didn't have a good year or I'm not a good player," Greenway said. "You can't let those sort of things, and I hope you guys don't either, you can't let those sort of things make people buy into that's the mark of a good player or not. Obviously a lot of things go into that. Having said that, those guys all deserve it. You take it any way you can get it."
Greenway knows the score for Pro Bowl voting. Players who have been there before stand a better chance of making it again because of name recognition, and he's seen other deserving teammates not make it in the past.
Team success also plays a role. The Vikings finished with a 12-4 record last year and had 10 players voted to the Pro Bowl. This year, they are 6-9 and only Peterson currently represents the team on the NFC squad.
"Obviously a lot of that fluctuates with the success and us noting being in the playoff hunt this year figures something into it," Greenway said. "I'm naturally upset because you want to be Pro Bowl player. There's plenty of guys out there who deserve it. E.J. has deserved it plenty of times. Who am I to sit here and complain and say the guys who are going don't deserve it because those guys play hard and they deserve it too?"
"… We have a lot of good players. Obviously there have been guys that have been there multiple, multiple times that aren't going for the first time in a while. They have to find another place to go for vacation. That's the hardest thing to do, right?"
Greenway said he doesn't believe the style of defense the Vikings play had anything to do with him being left off the team. Linebackers like Clay Matthews (Green Bay) and DeMarcus Ware (Dallas) play in a 3-4 defense that sends them blitzing a bunch and therefore producing bigger sacks numbers.
But Greenway also noted Pro Bowl linebackers past and present that work the Tampa-2 style that the Vikings currently employ.
"I referenced (Chicago's Lance) Briggs because he played in this scheme. I looked at Derrick Brooks, who started and played in this scheme a long time. Those guys aren't getting a lot of sacks," Greenway said. "It's probably more of the onset or the re-emergence of the 3-4 defense probably more than anything because you deal with all those 3-4 backers. They're still good players. Naturally, of course I wanted to go and I want to earn the right to go there and I hope someday I'll be able to do it, but I don't think it make me less of a player."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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