At this point in his career, there have been very few comparisons made between former Vikings QB Brett Favre and current Vikings QB Josh Freeman. But the beat writers for the team have noticed one striking similarity.
Of all the things to like about Favre, one of the best was his slow, deliberate response to questions. A lot of players speak quickly and getting quotes right can be challenging, especially with players like Pat Williams, whose deep Louisiana drawl was an acquired taste that often required a several re-listenings and an eventual educated guess on some words. Complicating that is that getting quotes from some players of more than one or two sentences can be like pulling teeth. They hear a question and answer it almost as if it’s being asked by a police detective.
Favre was the king of the podium. He has few peers in that regard. When the Jenn Sterger sexting controversy blew up, questions at those press conferences got pretty pointed. Some were downright nasty. But as the master technician of the microphone bank, Favre could find a way to give an answer to a question that, when reviewed later, had very little to do with the original question. He was a master.
Not only were the quotes and anecdotes pabulum for most media types who lapped it up, Favre’s slow Mississippi drawl was done at such a pace that anyone transcribing his quotes could basically do so in real time. They could get long. They could definitely meander from the original question. But they were always entertaining and easy to comprehend. Brett was a storyteller at the microphone. He may not have been in the zip code of the question being asked in his response, but you got an answer and quotes that could be used.
Enter Freeman, stage left Thursday. He stepped to the podium at his first obligatory “starting quarterback press conference” as a Viking. The first question that was asked was relatively innocuous.
“Is your head just swimming with information as you try to get ready for your start?”
In four seconds, Freeman shot down the question clay-pigeon style. “Pull!” Bang! But he wouldn’t finish his answer to that question for another two-and-half minutes. Somewhere in suburban Kiln, Favre shed a joyful tear of a young QB who reminds him of him. After the powder burns from the shot dissipated, here’s what Freeman had to say.
“I don’t know if swimming is the word I would use,” Freeman said, prompting other reporters to think there might be a chance to jump in with their questions. “It’s more just embracing the process and embracing the grind. One of the great things Coach (Bill) Musgrave and coach (Craig) Johnson do, and even Kevin (Stefanski), when they lay it out, it’s all clean-cut. They’re not throwing everything at you saying, ‘You piece it together.’ They have a very distinct plan as far as today we’re working this, today we’re working this and we’re going to get ready for this tomorrow, but we want your main focus to be on the three-step game, or drop-back game, or play action, whatever it may be. Every day the constant underlying theme is protections and I’m blessed and fortunate that early on in my career, up until earlier this season, protection has always been a big point of emphasis in any offense I’ve played in and it’s no different here, just a couple of them are called a little differently. As we’ve worked and progressed, I’ve gotten more and more comfortable each day. I didn’t know if the progress and day-to-day progression was going to continue at the rate that it did initially, but every day, and it’s different people stepping up, ¬it’s the guys on the O-line, Sully (John Sullivan), the wide receivers, talking with Greg (Jennings), talking with Jerome (Simpson). Those guys have a lot of input and insight. Talking to Adrian (Peterson) about different run themes, and you know, talking just with my teammates getting a feel for how they like to do things around here, how different scenarios, guys’ strengths, weaknesses because, to be honest, with only one week of practice with guys, it’s hard to really develop the kind of chemistry you’d like to have midway through a season. To compensate for that, guys have kind of taken it on themselves to really spend time with me.
Kyle Rudolph, a guy that’s an unbelievable tight end, talking with him about his route likes and dislikes and finding ways to get him the ball. Last but not least is the quarterback room. Matt (Cassel) and Christian (Ponder) are constantly giving me advice, telling me about nuances within the offense that could pay dividends in the long stretch, but really it’s all-in-all a team effort and just studying. Studying and watching tape and finding time to get the appropriate amount of film study on the Giants.
Longest … Paragraph … Ever!
If nothing else, Freeman has raised the bar for answering media questions that was once thought to be the untouchable domain of Favre’s misdirectional monologues. Freeman has a long way to go to usurp the king of the podium, but he’s off to a good start. Vikings fans can only hope his play on the field will parallel his mic acumen and Thursday will simply be the first of many such occurrences.
Harrison Smith has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game with a foot injury being described as turf toe. It wasn’t promising Wednesday when Smith was limping in a walking boot. It was worse Thursday when he had a large, hard cast on his foot and was getting around the locker room on crutches. There is some talk that he may require surgery, which would likely end his 2013 season.
Blair Walsh told Viking Update Thursday that he’s unclear how much kicking he will do Monday. While he will handle field goals and extra points, at this point of the preparation week, punter Jeff Locke is handling kickoff duties. Walsh praised Locke’s efforts, but said he wants to get back to booming kickoffs for touchbacks. He believes that, because the game will be played outdoors with the potential for fall-like conditions, it likely won’t be known until pregame warmups whether he will handle kickoffs or not. Last Sunday, it seemed the handwriting was on the wall when the Vikings used a machine to simulate kickoffs pregame rather than have Walsh risk the potential of worsening his left hamstring. Walsh did say that the extra day might make the difference.
A Twin Cities columnist has postulated that the Vikings should trade Adrian Peterson. Apparently he doesn’t fully understand the ramifications of such a move. Peterson is as big a face of the Vikings franchise as any player in the league and he is showing no signs of slowing down. Without Peterson, the Vikings offense would likely be closer to Jacksonville’s than a playoff contender. Perhaps the columnist has spent too much time watching the Twins lose and trade off their veteran players. Trade Peterson? Not a chance.
There continues to be rumors that the Vikings should bring back Antoine Winfield, but it appears that ship has sailed. Not only doesn’t such a move make sense – Winfield can’t be happy with the Vikings front office with how his Vikings career ended and, if a player is going to come out of retirement at midseason, wouldn’t it make sense that he would want to sign with a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations rather than a 1-4 team that burned the bridge behind Winfield? Not to mention the salary-cap gymnastics the Vikings would have to do to sign him.
The Vikings would like to give rookie Sharrif Floyd more snaps. Expect to see the Vikings incorporate all three of their first-round rookies in the second half of the season as they begin their evaluation process for how the 2014 roster will be configured.
Jared Allen will be making his 100th straight start Monday, which is something of a misnomer. Allen has missed just one game during his career and that was as a rookie. He has actually started 128 straight games, but his consecutive game streak was halted in 2007 when Allen was suspended by the league for two games after a pair of DWI arrests. Allen acknowledged the achievement Thursday, but his distinction is actually more impressive because it wasn’t injury that made him miss his last scheduled start before the 100-game streak began.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.