GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Earlier this fall, the Minnesota Vikings parted ways with Ragnar, the team's "human mascot" for the previous 21 seasons. Now, it appears, the man in the fur has become a turncoat.
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Joe Juranitch -- the Ely, Minnesota, man who portrayed Ragnar for 21 years, clad in a fur top and a horned helmet as he charged out of the Vikings' tunnel at the Metrodome on a motorcycle -- appeared on Fox Sports 1's NFL pregame show Sunday morning, opening up a package he said was from the Green Bay Packers. In the segment filmed in the snowy northern Minnesota woods, Juranitch shed his Viking helmet for a cheesehead. "It kind of has a nice feel to it," Juranitch said, before signing off with, "Well, I've got to go -- as in, 'Go Pack Go.'"
As Ragnar walked off into the woods, cameras cut back to former Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss in studio, yelling in mock indignation, "You don't put that cheesehead on and walk through the woods!" When asked if Ragnar was right to be disgruntled, Moss conceded: "I think he is. I think he is."
When the Vikings parted ways with Juranitch before the season, he posted a video of himself in his Ragnar costume, watching the team's home opener on television. The Vikings received a smattering of phone calls asking about the character's status, releasing a statement in September saying they had parted ways with Ragnar after they were unable to come to an agreement with him for the 2015 season.
Juranitch said that week the Vikings had told him they'd bring him back for one game in 2015; the mascot, who'd made $1,500 per game as an independent contractor in 2014, started negotiations by asking for $20,000 for that appearance. He acknowledged the request was too steep, saying he'd never negotiated his own contract before, but said the idea that he was asking for $20,000 each week -- or $160,000 for the regular season -- was misrepresented.
In a video on his Facebook page on Saturday, Juranitch told his fans the Vikings have not contacted him, adding, "They told me they were going to bring me back, in their press release, for a game; they have not. I guess it's time to move on." He closed by telling fans, "You're going to see me soon."