Visanthe Shiancoe (Andrew Weber/US Presswire)
Whether they are fighting for their own jobs, trying to save their coach’s job or just avoid the worst season in franchise history, there are different motivations to finish the season out strong.
With a 2-14 record and coming off a 42-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints, what’s left to play for with the Minnesota Vikings? According to their coach and a few players, plenty.
Playing for pride? It might be too late for that. But some players admit that they could be playing for their jobs and to save the job of head coach Leslie Frazier.
“You definitely have that,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said about playing for Frazier. “And also you want to play to keep your job. In this league, every game you go out there, your job is on the line and you want to play well to keep your job, as well as theirs.”
Frazier said he isn’t concerned about his job, and the sentiment around Winter Park seems to be that owner Zygi Wilf will retain Frazier for another season after he went 3-3 as an interim coach in 2010 and is 2-12 to this point after hiring new coordinators and installing a new offensive scheme without the benefit of any offseason practices because of the lockout.
Frazier isn’t using the lack of minicamps or offseason practices as an excuse for the team’s poor record. But he also doesn’t sound like he’s concerned about his job.
"I'm really not. I know what we're trying to get done. I'm really optimistic about the future. It's difficult, and as crazy as that may sound, I think I have a good idea of what we need to do to not be in this situation in the future,” Frazier said. “No. Not concerned about 2012 at this point, other than the Washington Redskins, 2011. That's really where the focus has to be.”
The Vikings will have to win their final two games to avoid the worst record in franchise history, the infamous 1984 season under head coach Les Steckel, whose militaristic stylings lasted only one year before they were replaced by the more docile tendencies of Bud Grant.
“What incentive do we have? Not being the worst team in Vikings history,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. “We were just talking about that in the tight end room as a matter of fact. That’s a lot of motivation right now. That’s what we talk about in the tight ends room and what we’re going to try to do as a group, as a tight end group. So we’re going to put up that effort as much as possible. We’re going to take these next two weeks very, very seriously. That’s what we’re going to do.”
While Shiancoe tried to maintain a focus on the tight end position, he realizes the entire team, from players to coaches to the front office, could use a win. That hasn’t happened since before their bye week on Nov. 6. Since then, it’s been six straight losses.
"I think it's for the team's sake. It's not just one person, the whole organization. For me, I feel like we need these next two wins. We need to take them seriously. We're going to take them seriously,” Shiancoe said.
While Shiancoe said he saw “a lot of effort from a lot of guys,” he also said “you could see some guys hung it up. Not a lot, though. Like a very small handful of guys.”
Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen were two of the players that expressed frustration about not being in the game more. Peterson was coming off a high ankle sprain and had only 10 carries and Allen took a chop block in the fourth quarter and didn’t play the last series.
Peterson admitted to being frustrated with the losing.
“I hate to lose so I’m a little frustrated, but it’s not going help in the long run,” Peterson said. “Overall, I’d say a lot of guys are frustrated being in this position, but then again I see a lot of guys fighting also.”
Shiancoe was more direct about the toll all the losing is taking.
“You don’t even want to go out and pump your gas anymore,” he said. “It’s embarrassing, man.”
CB Asher Allen, who left the game in the first quarter with a concussion, will undergo the NFL-mandated post-concussion impact tests this week. While trying to make a tackle, Allen took a knee from RB Darren Sproles in the back of the helmet. He left the game for three plays, returned for three more and then went to the locker room for evaluation at the end of that Saints drive and didn’t return.
G Steve Hutchinson left the game in the third quarter with a cut to his lip that required stitches. It turned out that he, too, had a concussion that will be evaluated this week.
S Jarrad Page suffered a hamstring injury and will be “day-to-day,” according to Frazier.
Peterson (ankle) and QB Christian Ponder (hip) emerged from the game “fine” with their injuries, Frazier said.
Count Shiancoe among those who believe fellow tight end Jim Kleinsasser will retire after this season. “I hope not. But I think it will be,” Shiancoe said. “So we’ve got to do it. It’s bad that he’s going out this way, so we’ve got to make it as good as possible, you know what I’m saying? Just sprinkle a little sugar on (a bad season).”
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.