Controversy and the courtship of Brett Favre have seemingly been linked since rumors first started that he was angling to return to football in May. It was thought that after all the speculation and guesswork ended upon his signing with the team last week, the talk about quarterback controversy would be over.
Guess again. On Wednesday, two reports came out quoting unnamed players that say there is a “schism” in the Vikings locker room. As the story goes, not everyone is happy that Favre has blown into Winter Park after all the OTAs, minicamps and training camp had concluded and was immediately handed a starting job.
The reports, one from Adam Schefter of ESPN and the other from the football news and rumors web site ProFootballTalk.com claim that there are factions among the team. While the outward appearance is that the team totally backs Favre, the stories Wednesday claim that Favre has little support in the locker room and that there is a group of players that believe the team has a better chance of winning with Tarvaris Jackson as the quarterback and another that thinks Sage Rosenfels would be the most likely to lead the Vikings into the playoffs.
When asked to comment on the stories, Brad Childress said, “I’ve seen the same reports that you’ve seen. Those are opinions. It’s hard to shoot holes in an opinion. An opinion is just that – an opinion. I certainly don’t see anything that looks close to that.”
The story on ESPN doesn’t claim the reports of a “schism” came from any player in particular, but rather “sources with knowledge of the Vikings locker-room dynamics.” Later references make use of the term “NFL source.”
Nowhere does it directly quote a player. While players clearly know the dynamics of the locker room, the likelihood is marginal that the quotes came from a player. Typically when a reporter uses an unnamed source, it comes with some sort of attribution that gives it the stamp of credibility. If it is a player, the story more likely would say “an unnamed player” or a “player who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” The equipment guys know the dynamics of the locker room. So do the ball boys. But does that make them credible enough to speak for the team? Probably not.
There were players who spoke glowingly of T-Jack last year – even after he was demoted. When he came back last year, the praise from his teammates was heaped on him. He has a lot of friends on the team. But, as Childress pointed out, the NFL is a business. Childress orchestrated the decision to add Favre to his team – a team, by the way, of which he is the boss. All the players don’t have to like it. It was never their call to make.
Whether Favre can make as big a difference with the Vikings as his proponents believe he will is still yet to be seen. But he has brought more attention to the Vikings than any player since the trade for Herschel Walker 20 years ago. So many national talking heads have said they love the Vikings…except for their quarterback. The theory was that if they got a better QB, they would become a favorite in the NFC. Childress apparently agrees with that assumption and the signing of Favre was proof of that.
If there are factions in the locker room, they will be quickly silenced by Favre going out and winning games, especially early since the Vikings of the past two seasons started with 1-3 records out of the gate – with Jackson losing three of the four games he started. If Favre can help the Vikings cruise through an opening schedule that includes Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, Green Bay and St. Louis – all teams that earned draft picks in the top 10 due to their records – the will be no controversy. If Favre struggles and true factions develop, Childress could find himself in the same untenable position Dennis Green found himself in 2001 when a talented team coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship game floundered and it forced Green out as head coach.
The situation is going to play itself out, leaving Childress and Favre with an Al Davis type of option for September – “just win, baby.”
When asked about Favre’s grasp of the Vikings offense, Childress said, “He’s doing fine with it. It’s coming fast because there’s not a deep learning curve.” Favre is expected to play the entire first half with the Vikings starters Monday in Houston.
Bernard Berrian, Jim Kleinsasser and Erin Henderson were all absent from practice Wednesday. Berrian continues to heal from a hamstring pull, while Kleinsasser deals with a hand injury and Henderson is recovering from a shoulder injury sustained Friday against Kansas City.
In a follow-up to an item from yesterday, former Viking Tyler Thigpen, who appeared to be the odd man out in Kansas City, is looking more likely to head to Jacksonville, where another former Viking QB – Todd Bouman – is the backup to starter David Garrard. Reports have surfaced that the Jaguars have offered a fifth-round pick to the Chiefs in exchange for Thigpen. Apparently the sticking point now is that the Chiefs, for whatever reason, believe they can get a higher pick for Thigpen than a fifth-rounder and that the Ravens have also expressed an interest.
You have to feel for former Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill. The same day he gets named as the starter in San Francisco over former first overall pick Alex Smith, Hill strains his lower back and may not be able to play when the 49ers play Dallas. Smith has already been ruled out with a thumb injury. Those who like to gamble may be interested in putting some cash down on the Cowboys. While Dallas will be running its first-unit offense for a half or more and getting plenty of time for Tony Romo and Jon Kitna, the Niners could be splitting time between 13-year backup Damon Huard and rookie fifth-rounder Nate Davis.
With training camps done and the regular season drawing ever closer, it’s interesting that two of the top 10 picks remain unsigned. According to some reports, Michael Crabtree, taken No. 10 by the 49ers, dropped on draft day because several scouts viewed him as immature and a diva. His holdout is said to be based on the belief that, because he should have been a top-five pick, he should be paid like one. Apparently the 49ers have offered him a contract that would fit in the slotting of where his pick should be. The other is offensive tackle Andre Smith of the Bengals. Cincinnati having trouble signing a first-round pick is nothing new. It seems to happen every year. That problem is compounded by the fact that the pre-draft knock on Smith was that he had awful work habits, weight problems and an inflated opinion of his own abilities. It will be interesting to see how quickly these situations can be resolved.
The free agent class of 2010, especially the younger players in that group, have a vested interest in getting new contracts done now or labor peace to be had in the next six months. If the current CBA expires, 2010 will be an uncapped season. As a preventative against that, the agreement calls for players to not reach unrestricted free agency until after six seasons instead of the current four seasons. Players finishing their fourth season that would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency will now give their current team a chance to match any free-agent offers next year – which could result in a big bottle full of poison pills in player contracts that will ruffle feathers between owners.