INDIANAPOLIS -- I joined several reporters Friday for an extended interview with Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, spending most of the time discussing his team's urgent need to identify and draft a long-term answer at quarterback this spring. Supporting our earlier post, Frazier said: "We want a guy that we can say that's the Minnesota Vikings quarterback for years to come and not to be in this situation two or three years from now."
Frazier's personality is as steady as they come. But even his voice lowered and his eyes glistened when asked about the suicide of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, his teammate for three seasons and friend ever since.
Frazier revealed that Duerson called him "a couple of weeks ago" and left a message.
"I tried to call him back and I missed him and it haunts me knowing what has happened now that we didn't connect," Frazier said. "We were good friends, good teammates and it's still troubling that he's not here."
Duerson asked family members to donate his brain for research before shooting himself in the chest Feb. 17. He apparently feared he was suffering from brain trauma, but tests to confirm any diagnosis won't be completed for months.
Frazier said none of his recent interaction with Duerson suggested diminished mental capacity. Other former Bears have said the same.
Part of Frazier's sadness stems from the hope he sensed in Duerson's voice message. He wanted to speak about getting into coaching, having seen three members of the early 1980's Bears teams -- Jeff Fisher, Mike Singletary and Frazier -- ascend to head coaching jobs. Duerson had long followed and supported Frazier's career, even attending games and cheering him on as head coach at Trinity University near Chicago.
"It's just hard to come to grips with the fact he's no longer with us," Frazier said. "It's just very, very hard. It's just hard."