The Vikings held their final team meeting of the 2009 season this morning at Winter Park before everyone goes their separate ways for the offseason. Following the team meeting, the players grabbed belongings from their lockers and spoke with reporters before heading out.
Most of the players were asked first about QB Brett Favre, the season he had and their thoughts on whether he’ll return. Everyone who was asked about Favre’s potential return declined to speculate. But no one was gun shy in proclaiming how much the enjoyed playing with the 19-veteran and how much they noticed he enjoyed playing the game.
“I’ve learned a ton of things about defenses and how to read different situations,” C John Sullivan said. “Most of that stuff has come from him and the coaches, so it was a great situation for me as a young player this year.
“That guy loves this sport and, like I said, it rubs off on everybody else, not that we don’t all love it, too. But he takes it to another level. He has a lot of fun out there and that allows everybody else to have fun, too.”
K Ryan Longwell, who has been teammates with Favre both in Green Bay and in Minnesota, expressed similar sentiments while speaking with reporters. Longwell also mentioned that Favre and the Vikings had an “instant chemistry” once he joined the team and that it kept getting stronger as the season progressed.
WR Bernard Berrian, who had his best game of the season on Sunday night, said that after playing with him it’s easy to see why he’s such a respected player. LB Chad Greenway, who played against Favre for a couple of seasons before Favre joined the Purple, said that however much respect he had for Favre before this season, he has “10 times” that amount now.
Other players spoke to reporters about the message that head coach Brad Childress sent to his players during the team meeting. A big part of the message was about looking forward and not holding on too long to Sunday’s loss. S Tyrell Johnson said one thing he’ll take away from this season is the positives, such as the resiliency the Vikings showed in fighting through adversity and being in position to win the NFC Championship in spite of the odds being stacked against them.
The mood is always somber on this day because it’s the final day this Vikings team will ever be together. While many players will obviously be returning in 2010, everyone in the NFL knows that nothing is guaranteed and that this is, indeed, the final time this particular Vikings team will ever be together. When you’re a 12-4 bunch that was thisclose to advancing to the Super Bowl, this day is an especially hard one to get through.
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The stories have all been written and the outcome already well-chronicled. But for me, it doesn’t take paragraph upon paragraph of a game summary to characterize the aftermath of Sunday’s night’s NFC Championship Game.
It can be done in one word.
The Vikings 31-28 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the Louisiana Superdome last night is agonizing for several reasons. The Vikings out-gained New Orleans 475 yards to 257. Brett Favre outplayed Drew Brees. Adrian Peterson had a great stat line (25 carries for 122 yards and 3 TDs), but more crushing fumbles. The Vikings had 31 first downs to New Orleans’ 15. We had the ball with 2 minutes and change remaining and 3 timeouts with Favre under center and the game tied.
It goes on and on.
Making matters worse is knowing that this loss will go down in Vikings history with other high-profile, big-game disappointments. The Drew Pearson Hail Mary. Four Super Bowl losses. Gary Anderson’s missed FG against Atlanta. Losing 41-0 to the Giants in the NFC title game. And now we add 12 men in the huddle to the list.
Through all of the disappointment and in spite of the agony, however, one must also credit the Vikings. They had a great season, going 12-4 to win their 2nd consecutive division title and secure a 1st-round bye. Favre had arguably his best season in the NFL. The Vikings dominated Cleveland in Week 1, pulled off a miraculous victory against San Francisco in Week 3, swept the Packers, went on a sensational 3-game tear coming out of the bye, picked up huge wins against the Bengals and Giants late in the season and dismantled the Cowboys in the Divisional Round.
But one trait that defines this Vikings team more than any other is resiliency. The team fought through adversity, from E.J. Henderson’s injury to the “schism” and everything in between. They were -4 in turnover ratio last night and yet had the game won with 19 seconds to play in regulation.
But the loss, and more specifically how the loss occurred, is agonizing.
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