I wish Percy Harvin's biggest problem was that he listens to too much country music. That way he'd be having heartaches instead of headaches. The mercurial wide receiver finally arrived for pre-season today (Monday) after taking what seemed like a sabbatical because of the death of a family member.
The Vikings organization has gained more sensitivity on these matters. That's because of their experience with Troy Williamson.
The organization learned greater empathy because of Williamson. Vikings fans would have had greater empathy for the man had he proven better at catching the football. Seriously though we grieve with anyone who has lost a loved one.
Back to the present and the Harvin subject: Reports have surfaced that his problem with migraines, which came to our attention last season, have re-surfaced. It's a supreme letdown for Minnesota Vikings fans.
Long-time NFL fans know, however, that it's too much to expect for your nucleus of key players to show up without incident or complication and proceed to follow the winning script.
We have another complication with another key Vikings receiver: Sidney Rice. This much we know: Rice has a hip problem. The extent of it is the huge question.
Rice, who had his breakout season last year and built special chemistry with QB Brett Favre, will arguably be underpaid for the coming season. Few pro athletes will shrug and accept that state of affairs. It's possible that a sweetening of the pot for Rice, contract-wise, will speed up the healing of that hip. Or make Rice more willing to play with a minor problem.
A problem like Rice's can be expected with a team like the Vikings, coming off a season with such a superb won-lost record. A lot of individuals had to excel for that kind of record to be achieved. It's unlikely that all of those individuals will subsequently find their contracts to be adequate. The "show me the money" refrain starts.
The NFL isn't dynasty-friendly anymore. The best teams usually catch lightning in a bottle with a mix of proven players and young surprises. Keeping a nucleus together for an extended time is a headache just like Harvin's.
The issues with Harvin and Rice create a third, much more sensational problem. Will Brett Favre feel enticed to come back if his two top wide receivers have huge question marks hovering over them?
Favre is not the kind of player who can just join any NFL team and inject the winning ingredient. He does has savvy and the kind of intangibles that one associates with "talent." We saw that at the end of the San Francisco game last year.
But he is very far up in age now. More than ever he needs that solid nucleus around him.
It's one reason he found the Vikings appealing to begin with. Without Harvin and Rice, it appears the Vikes would have a most pedestrian group of receivers. Frankly I wonder if Favre would consider coming back at all.
On Saturday the Vikings played their first pre-season game. A couple of weeks ago I actually took the trouble to watch part of the Hall of Fame Game - the annual start-of-season exhibition. For starved football fans, these season debut games are irresistible despite the fact that they're like drinking weak hot chocolate. It's interesting that the NFL, which is probably the premier pro sports league, begins and ends each season with such tepid attractions: the Hall of Fame Game and the Pro Bowl.
I had greater than usual interest in the Hall of Fame Game this year because it included the Dallas Cowboys, the favorite team of my waitress Felicia at DeToy's Restaurant in Morris. I need to stay well-versed on the Cowboys or I might get scolded by her.
Getting a Vikings fan to be interested in the Cowboys is a special challenge. Fans of my generation (boomers) have some unpleasant memories of purple conquests vs. Dallas. Tom Landry and that infernal hat of his - can you imagine a young coach wearing a hat like that? - is burned into the purple consciousness as a nemesis.
The "immaculate reception" gave us a hangover that may have lasted until our baseball Twins won the World Series in 1987. The Twins solved a lot with that success. The Vikes had lost four Super Bowls and the Twins lost the 1965 World Series. The '87 World Series just seemed to make things right.
Although I feel sorry for Harmon Killebrew.
Coach Landry and his retro hat gave way to Jimmy Johnson, whose picture could appear next to the word "feisty" in the dictionary. (Or course, print dictionaries are dying just like the Yellow Pages thanks to the Internet.)
Johnson might have the same hairstylist as Rod Blagojevich. He fits in perfectly today with those game-day panelists on TV who discuss highlights in a way that seems so free-flowing and spontaneous but which I'm sure is painstakingly crafted.
Terry Bradshaw is a master at that, although the older he gets, the more he reminds me of the Peter Boyle character in "Young Frankenstein."
Howie Long is the straight man.
Bill Parcells appeared to be installed for a lengthy tour of duty with Dallas, but he was dismissed after the infamous Tony Romo fumbled snap on a kick attempt. It's curious how fate works. Just like when Tarvaris Jackson was ceremoniously benched as Vikings quarterback (in favor of true journeyman Gus Frerotte) after a game in which Visanthe Shiancoe dropped a sure TD pass that would have beaten Peyton Manning and the Colts. Was Jackson on the verge of a breakthrough in that game? We'll never know. Frerotte came and went.
Now we have the Brett Favre circus, which we'll find entertaining until the purple fortunes fade. Without Harvin and Rice, the outlook is most clouded. If Adrian Peterson fumbles a couple of games away, the boos will come cascading.
By far the most interesting thing about the Vikings' first pre-season game was the showing of Joe Webb, the sixth-round draft pick. Quarterback Webb looks like a much quicker version of Daunte Culpepper. Assuming Favre does play, the Vikes will have to dispose of (or deactivate) either Sage Rosenfels or Jackson, because three QBs are the maximum and Vikes fans will insist on keeping Webb.
I would like to see Webb play an entire pre-season game even if he shows some rough edges. If he has a rough stretch, just have him complete a couple of passes under the coverage and prop his stats back up.
The Vikings may not have reached the Super Bowl last year but we trounced Dallas in the playoffs. Faint consolation.
The swashbuckling Romo has yet to look like a playoff quarterback. Felicia at DeToy's will surely hope that he'll get that monkey off his back. She has been quite excited about the Cowboys' top draft pick, "Dez" Bryant. Bryant made news in the pre-season by saying to heck with rookie hazing. He has a mind of his own but he might be able to contain this trait better than Terrell Owens.
So, Owens is now playing with Cincinnati? The same team that already has the eccentric Chad Ocho Cinco? My only question is this: Who's going to play the role of Curly?
Let's get past this pre-season and get to the "real deal!"
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org