NFC North: Chris Kluwe

MANKATO, Minn. -- According to the summary the Minnesota Vikings released last week of an independent investigation into former punter Chris Kluwe's allegations, long snapper Cullen Loeffler was the only member of the team to corroborate Kluwe's claim that special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer made a homophobic remark during the 2012 season. But if Kluwe contends he was released in part because of his support for same-sex marriage, Loeffler said he never felt in danger of losing his job for telling investigators he remembered Priefer making the statement.

Loeffler
"I was never worried about my job, never worried about the Vikings' support," Loeffler said. "They’ve been very supportive throughout the process. Just wanted me to cooperate, which I did."

Loeffler, who told investigators that he and Kluwe both laughed off Priefer's comment about "putting all the gays on an island and nuking it," said again on Thursday he remembered thinking the remark was a joke. He said he hasn't talked to Kluwe since the former punter published his allegations in a Deadspin piece on Jan. 2, and said he was glad the investigation had come to a close.

According to the summary, Loeffler met with Vikings executive director of player development/legal Les Pico after Kluwe asked him to sign an affidavit confirming the remarks in May 2013. Kluwe told investigators that Loeffler was concerned he would be "blacklisted" from the NFL if he was associated with a controversy involving Priefer. The summary said Pico told Loeffler he felt a need to alert general manager Rick Spielman and vice president of legal affairs Kevin Warren about the situation, even though Kluwe wanted it to remain private and avoid any risk of jeopardizing Loeffler's job status.

Asked about his conversations with Pico on Thursday, Loeffler said, "At the time I wasn’t really sure what was going to come out of it. Really everything that I’ve said is in the report. If you want to address that question you can address it from the report."

Pico has declined comment since the summary was published, referring questions to his attorneys.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe plans to file suit against the team this week, in part to obtain the full report from a six-month independent investigation of his allegations against special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. But Kluwe is employing another tool to pressure the Vikings to release the report.

Kluwe
Kluwe
He started a petition on Change.org, asking the Vikings to release the full 150-page report to the public. The team engaged another law firm to review the full report last week and released a 29-page summary of the investigation on Friday evening. In an interview on Saturday, however, Kluwe said the report contained inaccuracies about Priefer's conduct and called again for the Vikings to release the complete report. As of Monday afternoon, his petition had received about 900 digital signatures.

Kluwe's attorney, Clayton Halunen, said on Saturday that he would start the discovery process the same day he serves the Vikings with a lawsuit. Of the report, he said, "We're going to get that within 30 days (of a lawsuit being filed)."

In the explanation of the petition he wrote on Change.org, Kluwe said the Vikings had promised to release the findings from their six-month investigation, and he called a news conference last Tuesday to criticize the team after it informed him it would not release the complete report. Both the Vikings and investigators Chris Madel and Eric Magnuson released statements the same day saying the team had never made or broken any promises to Kluwe about what it planned to do with the report.
video 

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings were scheduled to pay Chris Kluwe $1.45 million in 2013. They paid his replacement, Jeff Locke, $451,048, saving themselves nearly $1 million with a decision that, according to the summary of a six-month investigation released Friday night, most of their decision-makers felt was necessary to upgrade their performance at the position.

Kluwe
Kluwe
Viewed solely through the prism of on-field results, it was the kind of simple, sensible football move teams make all the time. Which makes the Vikings' handling of Kluwe this week even more perplexing.

As the former punter and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, put it Friday, they offered the Vikings the following nonnegotiable terms to settle Kluwe's dispute with the team after the investigation into his allegations against special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer:
  • The team would make the entire 150-page report public, excepting the thousands of citations and footnotes -- some of which contained sensitive personal information -- from investigator Chris Madel's interviews with Vikings players and employees.
  • The Vikings would suspend Priefer without pay for four to eight games for his homophobic remarks and require him to attend sensitivity training.
  • Lastly, the Vikings would donate $1 million to charities supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-friendly causes.

Halunen might have put additional stipulations on a settlement other than the ones he and Kluwe detailed in interviews Friday night. And it's safe to assume the relationship between the parties was frayed by the end of the process, which couldn't have steered negotiations in a productive direction. But if those terms are correct and complete, it means the Vikings walked away from a settlement -- and goaded Kluwe into threatening a lawsuit -- over a $900,000 difference in the donation amount, a one-game difference in Priefer's suspension and a decision to release a 29-page report on the investigation from a law firm they hired to review it rather than the original, independent report itself.

That seems like a minuscule difference for the Vikings to cover to make the episode go away relatively quietly. Instead, six days before players report to training camp for the first time under new coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings had a former player threatening a lawsuit and taking to Twitter to detail all the unseemly things he could divulge during that process. The Vikings should know Kluwe well enough by now to realize he's not one to back down, and they decided to provoke him when a little more transparency and contrition might have dispatched the whole thing. From a strictly legal perspective, they might be on solid footing; they've already reprimanded Priefer, and Halunen would have a hard time disproving the Vikings' claim that they cut Kluwe for performance reasons only. We've heard the full report, if released, will contain more material that paints Kluwe in an unflattering light, and Halunen seemed aware of that possibility Friday, after the initial summary included stories of Kluwe's bawdy locker room humor.

"I know there are things in there that are not flattering to my client," Halunen said. "He made jokes every once in a while. I know they’re going to be there."

But doesn't it worry the Vikings that, knowing all this, Kluwe seems intent on charging forward into the muck anyway?

Even the punter sounded perplexed, and slightly bemused, when discussing it Friday evening. "There was a reason I released the original Deadspin piece [on Jan. 2], so it would get handled at the best time of the year," Kluwe said. "The whole goal [was] to avoid this being handled in the football season. It's the same story going into the football season. It shouldn't be."

The Vikings could be standing on principles, or they could be trying to push Kluwe to the brink, hoping he'll accept a less favorable settlement over a protracted legal battle. But let's say players get asked to give depositions, or are even called to testify in court. Is that process -- and the possible PR hit -- worth the risk for the team?

If it's not, it's certainly tantalizing to ask why the Vikings passed on an opportunity to avoid it for roughly the sum of what they'll pay a backup defensive lineman this season. Or, slightly less than what they saved by keeping a rookie punter over a veteran who was about to become a very big thorn in their side.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The televised celebration in the Minneapolis bid committee's conference room on Tuesday afternoon -- in response to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's announcement that Super Bowl LII was headed to the Twin Cities -- was spontaneously raucous, in the way that only a celebration of the end of a long wait can be. As Minnesota Vikings officials, corporate CEOs and civic leaders exchanged jubilant (and occasionally awkward) high-fives and embraces, the room quieted down only at the mention that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was about to speak on TV.

It was then I realized: This must have been the first time in a while where it was purely, unequivocally good for the Wilf family to be the owners of the Vikings.

[+] EnlargeZygi Wilf and Mark Wilf
AP Photo/David GoldmanVikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf were all smiles after Minneapolis was selected as the host for the 2018 Super Bowl.
Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf, who prefer to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible, have presumably spent too much time in it for their liking in the past nine months, and rarely for positive reasons. First, there was the news that a New Jersey judge had ordered the family to pay $100 million in damages to its business partners in a 21-year-old lawsuit, which the Wilfs are still fighting in appellate court. That lawsuit triggered an emergency (if slightly theatrical) review of the Wilfs' finances that threatened to delay groundbreaking on the Vikings' new stadium, and four days after Zygi and Mark Wilf appeared at a news conference to announce the firing of coach Leslie Frazier following a 5-10-1 season, the owners ordered an independent review of the organization in the wake of former punter Chris Kluwe's allegations he was cut because of his support for same-sex marriage.

Even low-level controversies, like the news the Wilfs were receiving tax breaks in exchange for storing stadium dirt on parking lots they owned in downtown Minneapolis, played on the narrative that the Vikings' owners were suspicious out-of-towners, intent on driving hard bargains with a community that counts three Midwesterners as the owners of its other pro teams and tends to be leery of slick East Coast mavens.

But on Tuesday, the Wilfs weren't seen as carpetbaggers. They were the patient, steady hands who bought the Vikings in 2005, never threatened to move the team during a long legislative battle over a new stadium and ultimately helped forge the partnership on a $1 billion complex that will bring the Super Bowl back to Minnesota for the first time in 26 years. They got to talk about the "beginning ... of a long, great relationship and a great venue that everyone in Minnesota can be proud of," and as a kicker, they helped Minnesota exact a small measure of revenge for one of its most bitter NFC Championship Game defeats, beating out New Orleans for the right to host the game four years after the Vikings' overtime loss to the Saints. After a long, tenuous stretch, they seemed as much a part of the community in Minnesota as they had in some time.

However unscrupulous the Wilfs' business dealings might make them seem in the eyes of Minnesotans, it's tough to argue they haven't been good owners since they bought the team from Red McCombs. They've funded one of the NFL's highest payrolls, routinely spending money in free agency and giving general manager Rick Spielman the freedom to acquire seven first-round picks in the past three years. They were patient with state legislators through the fits and starts of the stadium process, even as the Vikings' local revenues in the outdated Metrodome ranked among the league's lowest. And they've now got the distinction of being the owners who helped bring America's biggest sporting event back to a state that might never have been more energized than when it had the game last time, in the middle of a remarkable 10-month run that saw the U.S. Open, Stanley Cup finals, World Series, Super Bowl and Final Four land in the Twin Cities in 1991 and 1992, making Minnesota the center of the nation's sporting conscience.

On top of all that, the Wilfs have a new head coach they like, a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater and an iconic player in Adrian Peterson. The narrative around the team right now is very much about what's exciting and new, and very little about the unsightliness of the past nine months. Tuesday was a good day for them to be the owners of the Vikings, and as they landed a Super Bowl that's sure to induce plenty of fretting about Minnesota's frosty climate, it probably wasn't hard for the Wilfs to feel the warmth from their adopted fan base.

Vikings owner supports Michael Sam

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
7:15
PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf released a statement on Monday afternoon supporting Missouri defensive end Michael Sam's decision to announce he is gay, calling Sam "courageous" and saying the Vikings would welcome any player they feel can help them win.

Here is Wilf's full statement:

"We commend Michael Sam for being very courageous with his openness on something of such a personal nature. His comments will have no impact on how the Vikings view Michael as a football player or as a person. If a player can help us win, we will warmly welcome him as part of the team and provide an accepting, respectful and supportive environment to help him succeed in the NFL."

The Vikings are still in the midst of an independent investigation into allegations by former punter Chris Kluwe that special teams coach Mike Priefer made homophobic remarks during the 2012 season. That investigation is expected to stretch into March. When he initially made the allegations in a Deadspin piece last month, Kluwe said Wilf approached him before the Vikings' 2012 season opener to thank him for speaking out in support of same-sex marriage, and added in an interview with ESPN.com that Wilf's wife Audrey also thanked Kluwe later in the 2012 season.

In that interview, though, Kluwe said he didn't see an opportunity to raise his concerns with Wilf during the season, since the owner lives and works in New Jersey and is only occasionally at the Vikings' facilities.

The Vikings decided last week to keep Priefer on their staff as their special teams coordinator, though they could certainly change their minds once the investigation is complete. Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and former Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel will make recommendations to the team once they are done with their work.

In a statement last month after Kluwe's piece was published, the team said, "As an organization, the Vikings consistently strive to create a supportive, respectful and accepting environment for all of our players, coaches and front office personnel. We do not tolerate discrimination at any level. The team has long respected our players’ and associates’ individual rights, and, as Chris specifically stated, Vikings ownership supports and promotes tolerance, including on the subject of marriage equality."
MINNEAPOLIS -- There is, at last, purple smoke from the Minnesota Vikings' offices. The team has announced its 2014 coaching staff, adding some previously unreported names to a group of coaches that had largely been identified weeks ago. But now that the Vikings have a staff in place -- and have confirmed, as many had expected, that special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer is on it -- they will be confronted with the obvious question:

[+] EnlargeMike Priefer
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallThe Vikings are keeping Mike Priefer on staff at least until their internal investigation is complete.
Why keep Priefer on the staff before the conclusion of an internal investigation the team pledged it was taking seriously?

That question will linger for several days, and possibly longer, without an answer from the Vikings; neither Priefer nor new head coach Mike Zimmer is being made available to reporters to discuss the decision on Thursday, though both Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are expected to make some brief remarks at the team's annual Arctic Blast Snowmobile Rally fundraiser on Saturday morning. But the inclusion of Priefer on the Vikings' 2014 staff might not mean the case is closed on the investigation.

It is easier for investigators Eric Magnuson and Chris Madel to get in contact with Priefer if he's still in town, employed by the team with a stake in the game, so to speak. In fact, my sense of things is that the Vikings knew that letting Priefer go now would make it more difficult for investigators to conclude their work in an accurate and timely manner. If, when the review is finished, investigators have proved that Priefer is responsible for reprehensible conduct, the Vikings can discipline or dismiss him then. Until that point, though, why put a well-respected special-teams coach on the open market when you're not sure what will happen?

Priefer was the driving force behind the Vikings drafting Pro Bowl kicker Blair Walsh, and played a large role in the decision to trade up and take Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round last year. Priefer seems likely to click with Zimmer, a fellow coach's son who touted the virtues of that pedigree at his opening news conference -- and put his own son, as well as the son of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, on his first Vikings staff. Dismissing Priefer now would have essentially rendered a guilty verdict in the middle of the investigation, and would have required the Vikings to part with an asset they seem to value. It would have been one thing if Zimmer and Priefer didn't see eye-to-eye, or if Zimmer had his own special-teams coordinator he wanted to hire. But otherwise, there's nothing forcing the Vikings to levy discipline in the middle of the investigation when they can wait and see if the results of the investigation compel them to do something.

The counterargument to all of this, of course, is that the Vikings are effectively giving Priefer a clean slate by announcing now that he will be on their 2014 staff. But let's be realistic: If the investigation makes it obvious the Vikings need to part with Priefer, they will do so, whether it's in January or February or June.

At the moment, they're simply saying they like the results Priefer has produced on the field, and that he's innocent until proven guilty, or at least liable. That might not be true in the court of public opinion, but it should also not be construed to mean the Vikings have washed their hands of the situation. Considering where they are now, the wisest course of action might be to let things play out.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will announce all of Mike Zimmer's coaching staff once it's finished, but we're starting to get some sense of how the group will look.

We know it will not include former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave; Fox Sports reported on Tuesday that Musgrave has accepted a job as the Eagles' quarterbacks coach. That's not a big surprise, considering the Vikings had already replaced Musgrave with Norv Turner, but Tuesday's news rules out any chance of Musgrave returning to the Vikings in a smaller role.

The Vikings have defensive coordinator George Edwards reportedly in place, as well, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Master Tesfatsion, who's at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., reports he saw Turner's son Scott conducting the Vikings' meetings with quarterbacks -- which is a likely indicator the younger Turner, who was the Browns' wide receivers coach last season, will be on his father's offensive staff for a second season in a row. Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs coach Adam Zimmer, who worked for his father last season, is also expected to join the Vikings' staff.

How many of former coach Leslie Frazier's assistants could stay on with Zimmer? According to a NFL source, wide receivers coach George Stewart and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson both have decent chances. Stewart, who is at the Senior Bowl this week, had developed a bond with rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson dating to last year's scouting combine, and he has worked with Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens in the past. The Vikings blocked Davidson from interviewing for a job with the Atlanta Falcons, which would seem to indicate they would like to keep him on Zimmer's staff.

There are bound to be plenty of questions about special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who was accused by former punter Chris Kluwe of making homophobic remarks during the 2012 season. The Vikings are investigating the matter, and that investigation could help delay an announcement of the Vikings' coaching staff. Priefer is well-respected as a coach, but the Vikings might want to get the situation resolved before announcing a staff with or without Priefer on it.

The rest of the group is still waiting to see what decisions Zimmer makes, but the Musgrave move is at least an indication that the Vikings have given some coaches the chance to accept jobs elsewhere.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The day after Chris Kluwe alleged that special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer used homophobic slurs during the 2012 season, the Minnesota Vikings were quick to show they mean business.

Kluwe
Kluwe
They ordered an independent review of the allegations, retaining former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel to lead the process. That investigation had already begun, as of Friday afternoon, and it could move quickly; Kluwe said he would be happy to work with the investigators, and as he pointed out, the Vikings likely want to get to the bottom of the issue in time for a new coach to decide if Priefer could join his staff.

The attorneys' credentials are also impressive; both have specialized in internal investigations, and Madel (who represented the Vikings in a 2003 sexual assault case) led the 2011 investigation of the Fiesta Bowl for illegal political activities, which led to six guilty pleas. There's little doubt the Vikings are taking things seriously. It's the first time they've done a major investigation since 2006, when former VP of player personnel Fran Foley was fired for having an inaccurate resume. And that investigation was done by team legal counsel, not by independent attorneys. The start of an investigation was a show of serious intent.

But the lingering question after Friday's announcement was this: What, exactly, will the review be able to uncover?

An internal investigation is different from a legal proceeding in the sense that attorneys do not have subpoena power; Magnuson and Madel won't be able to force players to comply with the investigation, or testify under oath to what they might have seen or heard. The Vikings could strongly suggest players cooperate, but without the force of legal action, it will be tough for them to know if they're getting to the bottom of the issue.

"Even if you’re really trying, you can’t force them to talk to you, nor can you force them to say, 'I remember exactly what happened, this is what happened and I was there,'" ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack said. "You can’t put them under oath; this isn’t a court proceeding. Whether someone comes in and says to you, 'Gee, I don’t know anything about it,' or says, 'I don’t want to talk to you,' you’re pretty much in the same boat."

In an interview on Friday, Kluwe said he didn't have any recordings of Priefer's alleged comments, but had kept written records of the remarks in case he ever needed them and said again he had witnesses he could name if needed. But one of the players who likely would have been in the specialists' meeting that Kluwe referenced in his piece is kicker Blair Walsh, who supported Priefer and slammed Kluwe in a statement he released Thursday. Unless he, or any other player, were to be subpoenaed, would they have any incentive to cooperate fully? Kluwe even admitted on Friday he wasn't surprised to see players come to Priefer's defense, adding that "if what I'm saying is true -- that I was run out of the league for speaking out -- and if they take my side, they would risk falling under that same umbrella. The NFL is not an easy league to get into. I would be surprised if any came to my side, although it would be very gratifying."

It's not out of the question the review could precipitate legal action, either in the form of a discrimination suit from Kluwe or a defamation suit from Priefer. If that were to happen, and attorneys could call players to testify, everything might be put out into the open. As one team source put it on Friday, "I think Chris is hoping it becomes a legal action."

But unless that happens, the Vikings might have a tough time unearthing all the details to corroborate or disprove Kluwe's allegations.

There is much to unfold among the roughly 3,880 words former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe published Thursday at Deadspin.com, and I think it's important to separate some of the unrelated issues contained therein.

From the top, Kluwe was not released in April 2013 solely because he advocated for gay rights, no matter the portrait he painted in the piece. A more objective explanation, as we discussed at the time, would note that he was a 31-year-old veteran who had produced a below-average performance in 2012 based on the criteria the Vikings most valued. He was entering the final year of his contract, one that carried no salary cap hit if he were released, and was playing for a team that had been systematically replacing older players with younger ones.

If anything, Kluwe's advocacy was the final push off the plank. Fair or otherwise, NFL teams don't have much tolerance for middling performers who draw more attention off the field than on it, be it for social causes or television commercials. Kluwe's stated confidence that his "activism was the reason I got fired" is a convenient storyline, one that has already drawn a great deal of attention, but it isn't supported by the full set of facts.

Kluwe
Kluwe
It's important to dismiss that thread so that we can independently address the real issue here. The story, as I see it, isn't a reassessment of why Kluwe is headed toward retirement. It's that Kluwe quoted a prominent Vikings assistant coach allegedly uttering abhorrent and obviously inappropriate sentiments about gays in a team setting, quotes that remained unreported (and presumably unaddressed by the team) for more than a year.

According to Kluwe, Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said in a 2012 special-teams meeting: "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows." Priefer had made other comments in a "semi-joking manner," Kluwe wrote, but in this case he spoke "in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing."

(Update: Priefer said in a statement released Thursday evening that he "vehemently denies" Kluwe's allegations, that he "does not tolerate discrimination of any type" and that he is "respectful of all individuals.")

I suppose we can note that Kluwe's advocacy had its limits; he wasn't willing to risk his job (or cause further distraction) by going public with the quotes immediately. But timing shouldn't discredit or lessen the impact of the revelation, assuming it is accurate. If that's the case, Priefer's career in the NFL might be over and his words should spark the same industry shakeup as the Miami Dolphins' hazing debacle from earlier this season.

According to Kluwe, Priefer had never used homophobic language in front of the punter before he began advocating for gay rights in the summer of 2011. So did Priefer resort to it as a way to tease, haze or otherwise send Kluwe a message? I recognize that off-color jabs are a staple in professional sports, but Priefer -- knowingly or otherwise -- crossed an obvious line. If his superiors weren't aware of it, then the Vikings had a serious, organization-wide communication issue at the time.

The Vikings did not mention Priefer in a statement released Thursday afternoon, focusing only on their dealings with Kluwe and concluding that he was released "strictly based on his football performance." They promised "further comment at the appropriate time," and I can only hope that comes after a thorough investigation into Priefer's language and methods.

Words are the most powerful weapon in advocating -- and blocking -- social change. A sentiment expressed once can be forgotten. One expressed repeatedly, for good or bad, becomes ingrained.

The NFL already was likely to establish new workplace rules when the Dolphins investigation is complete. The primary language in question in Miami was the N-word, but anti-gay sentiments -- in jest or otherwise -- should be considered just as seriously. In light of Kluwe's letter, I would imagine that nascent set of rules is about to get thicker.
Brett FavreAP Photo/Andy KingBrett Favre's career ended on the frozen fields of TCF Bank Stadium during the 2010 season.
Editor’s note: ESPN.com revisits the NFL’s most interesting teams since Y2K with a five-part “Most Compelling Teams of the Century” series. We continue with the 2010 Minnesota Vikings.

Brett Favre retired and then he really retired and then three Minnesota Vikings teammates lassoed him on his Mississippi farm and he agreed to do them a "favor" and then suddenly he was old and slow and a sitting duck and the subject of off-field accusations and finally, no longer the Iron Man of football. Sidney Rice had a minor hip injury and major hip surgery and then fumed amid questions about his condition so the Vikings tried to trade for Vincent Jackson and then got the cockeyed idea of acquiring Randy Moss who caught 13 passes in four games and clashed with coach Brad Childress and finally got himself cut a few hours before Childress told reporters Moss was still a Viking. Percy Harvin was Moss' best friend on the team and never forgave Childress and later in the season had to be held back from fighting him during practice. Childress was fired and Leslie Frazier was the coach when the Metrodome roof collapsed under heavy snow and the Vikings played home games in Detroit and on a frozen field at TCF Bank Stadium on which Favre made a final surprise start before taking a concussed sendoff.

And … breathe.

That's what the Vikings' season felt like for those who spent time around it: One soap-opera installment after another in run-on, never-ending fashion. It was so wild that no one blinked when another snowstorm forced a three-night stay in Philadelphia for a Week 16 game ultimately played on a Tuesday night. Naturally, the Vikings managed a 24-14 upset of the playoff-bound Eagles, led by a quarterback, Joe Webb, who had been drafted eight months earlier as a receiver.

I remember waking up early on Dec. 12, 2010. I figured it would take a while to clear the exceptionally heavy and wet snow that began falling the previous evening, and I wanted to be done in time to start blogging by midmorning. Before heading outside, I took a quick look at Twitter. Several local news stations had posted photos of the stadium roof collapse, which had occurred overnight.

It was about 6:30 a.m. CT. I texted ESPN colleague Ed Werder, who as it turned out was in Minneapolis to chronicle what would ultimately be the first game Favre had missed in two decades.

"That's a joke, right?" Werder replied.

Nope, I said. Welcome to the 2010 Minnesota Vikings.

Surreal. Theater of the Absurd. Unprecedented. I had used those descriptions and others throughout the year, often as they related to Favre. It began in late July of that year, when he told Childress he wouldn't play in 2010. No one believed him. About midway through training camp, reports surfaced that he would remain retired rather than rejoin the team after camp, as he had in 2009. No one believed him.

In fact, no one believed Favre until the team broke camp, and he still hadn't joined the team. Childress panicked. He sent three key players in owner Zygi Wilf's jet to talk Favre into playing, all while ducking the media and instructing two assistants to lie about the players' whereabouts. It wasn't until 30 minutes before Wilf's plane was scheduled to depart that Favre finally relented, agreeing, in his word, to do the Vikings a "favor."

Right away, it was clear that the magic of 2009 -- Favre had arguably the best season of his career in leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game -- was gone. Favre was using lubricant injections to limit discomfort in his troublesome ankles, and he threw almost as many interceptions (six) in the Vikings' first three games as he did in all 16 games of 2009 combined (seven).

Something needed to be done. Rice had been his favorite receiver in 2009, and the Vikings didn't seem to trust his commitment to returning. Jackson and the San Diego Chargers were in a contract stalemate, and the Vikings worked for a week to complete a trade before declining the Chargers' steep asking price.

That brought them to Moss, who the franchise had already fired once. Moss had worn out welcomes in Oakland and New England since then, and the match seemed poor from the start. Childress was a strict disciplinarian, both on personal comportment and scheme, and Moss had never been much of a conformist. It was a connection made by the gods of the unemployment line. I was flabbergasted to learn the two didn't speak before the trade. One conversation would have been enough to scuttle it.

Moss cost the Vikings a third-round draft choice. He made no impact on the offense, floored Childress with typically salty demeanor and in his final act, conducted a question and answer session with himself because he was upset about media complaints that had led to a $25,000 NFL fine.

Childress cut him the day after his fourth game with the team, a 28-18 loss to the Patriots in which Favre had been carted off the field, nearly unconscious, after a hit below the chin.

There was one problem, however. Childress had passed over the tiny detail of informing owner Zygi Wilf before executing the move. He got caught lying to reporters about it a few hours later, telling them he expected Moss back with the team in two days even as media reports confirming Moss' demise were surfacing.

Childress was cracking. Favre was playing -- heroically or stupidly? -- on a fractured foot and, at one point, paraded through the locker room with a protective boot in full view of reporters. Deadspin.com reported that he had texted inappropriate photographs to a woman who worked for the New York Jets in 2008, bringing Favre to tears during a pregame address to his teammates.

A month after firing Moss, Childress himself was fired after the Vikings' sideline erupted in dysfunction during a 31-3 home loss to the Green Bay Packers. That came shortly after Harvin exploded in practice when Childress questioned the severity of an injury. How quickly had Childress flamed out? His dismissal came one year after he signed a three-year contract extension.

By the time the Metrodome roof decided it had had enough, Favre was taking more direct hits than at any time in his career. It was sad, really, watching a once-elusive athlete absorb so much punishment. In Week 13, he suffered a sprained sternoclavicular joint after Buffalo Bills linebacker Arthur Moats slammed him to the turf.

Backup Tarvaris Jackson was preparing to start the following week against the Giants when the roof collapsed. Two days later, we all jumped on planes to cover the "home game" in Detroit at Ford Field. Favre stood on the sidelines wearing a stocking cap indoors and seemed relieved that his streak of 297 consecutive starts had ended. With three weeks remaining in the season, and Favre telling everyone who would listen that he couldn't feel his right hand, it seemed clear he would never play again.

That is, until the morning of Dec. 20. Snow was in the forecast, and the Vikings' final "home" game was scheduled for "Monday Night Football" against the Chicago Bears at the outdoor TCF Bank Stadium. Favre telephoned athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and, later, Frazier. Would the NFL allow him to play after the team had already ruled him out on the injury report?

Why yes, it would. Was there really any other answer for the 2010 Minnesota Vikings? Favre took a few warm-up throws in the snow and decided he wanted one last hurrah. This was an NFL game, not a reality television show, but it felt more like the latter. He played into the second quarter before Bears defensive end Corey Wootton slammed him to the frozen turf.

(As you might recall, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe got his start as a rabble-rouser that week by tweeting his concerns about the frozen turf, which had no heating coils under it and clearly posed a danger to players.)

Favre recently said he felt like an "idiot" for playing in the game, as he recounted the resulting concussion. At one point, he said he asked Sugarman, "What are the Bears doing here?"

And that, my friends, is the most appropriate image I can recall of the 2010 Minnesota Vikings. One of the NFL's greatest players lying on the frozen turf of a college stadium, playing not because he could, but because he wanted to, asking why there was an opponent on the field. I mean, the only thing stranger would have been a local catering service gaining national attention after a player criticized its food. Oh, wait….

We're Black and Blue All Over:

The man who set an NFL record by starting 297 consecutive games is now a pitchman and investor in a pain cream that he has been using in retirement. Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has details of Favre's journey and an impromptu infomercial he launched into during a recent interview with SiriusXM radio.

The cream requires a prescription and does not appear to be FDA approved, according to the Journal Sentinel. The president of the company that produces it said it has no ingredients that are banned in the NFL but declined to provide an ingredient list.

Favre's sojourn into this realm will be interesting not only because of his own well-documented history with narcotics but also in the current NFL atmosphere of intense scrutiny on pain killers. It will be worth following.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • The signing of linebacker Desmond Bishop proves that not every move the Minnesota Vikings make is geared only to the long term. Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com explains.
  • Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe reiterated that he believes he is "statistically the best punter the Vikings have had" during an appearance on the Dan Patrick radio show, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • The job to return kickoffs and punts for the Green Bay Packers is "wide open," writes Mike Spofford of Packers.com, but Jeremy Ross will get plenty of opportunities.
  • Bill Bentley will compete for the Detroit Lions' nickel cornerback job assuming he is fully recovered from a shoulder injury, writes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press examines the career history of Lions cornerback Ron Bartell.
  • Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune catches up with former Chicago Bears running backs coach Tim Spencer, whose late firing by the Bears left him unable to find a job this season.
  • McClure also spoke with former Bears tight ends coach Mike DeBord, who is now an administrator at the University of Michigan.

In response to a question last week, Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson professed a personal opinion about gay marriage but refused to advocate his position and made clear he accepted alternate viewpoints. And now, because he waded into an issue where many see no middle ground, he has generated a national news story.

I think that's too bad, not just for Peterson but for civil discussion and democracy.

In case you missed it, Peterson was discussing the release of former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, a well-known proponent for gay marriage, during a radio interview last week. Asked about the topic itself, Peterson said: "To each his own, [but] I'm not with it. I have relatives who are gay. I'm not biased towards them. I still treat them the same. I love 'em. But again, I'm not with that. That's not something I believe in. But to each his own."

The headline, of course, was predictable: "Adrian Peterson says he is against gay marriage."

Surely, Peterson could have provided a more neutral answer, if not one that was more tolerant. But I guess you'll have to call me a pessimist. In a nation of diverse people and thought, I think it's more realistic and constructive to find common ground than to expect everyone to convert to a single point of view.

Peterson's comments meet the standard for coexisting in a country of binary beliefs. He stated his opinion with civility. You haven't seen Peterson advocating against gay marriage in a political or policy sense. You haven't heard him say that he thinks others should convert their opinions to his. He sounds perfectly willing to live and thrive alongside those who think and act differently. Isn't that a fair common ground in a world of uncompromising positions?

A few years ago, Peterson spoke flippantly about "modern-day slavery," a mistake for which he apologized and took measures to rectify. I don't think his comments on gay marriage fall into the same category. It would be easier if everyone agreed on everything. They don't, but accepting differences is the next-best thing.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

In 2007, Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna predicted the team would win more than 10 games. The Lions finished 7-9.

Six years later, Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley is talking Super Bowl. Fairley stopped short of predicting an appearance in the big game in an interview with Terry Foster of the Detroit News, but said: "I expect big things."

He added: "I am going to say we are going to the Super Bowl because I am competitive and that is what I want for the team and it is one of the goals. I am sure we are going to take it game by game and day by day."

The Lions are hoping for a big turnaround after last season's 4-12 crash. Their busy offseason has inspired some national prognosticators to promote them as playoff contenders. In these types of situations, I'm always fine with players expressing big hopes and plans. Based on NFL history, at least one team will turn around a losing 2012 season and drive deep into the 2013 playoffs. If you don't think you can be that team, then what's the point?

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • The Lions have agreed to terms with their bottom four draft picks, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • The Green Bay Packers are planning trolley tours along the Packers Heritage Trail, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Vic Ketchman of Packers.com wonders if Packers rookie David Bakhtiari could project as the team's future left tackle.
  • The Minnesota Vikings and the University of Minnesota have reached a user agreement for the Vikings to move into TCF Bank Stadium for 2014 and 2015. More from the Associated Press.
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is researching alternative revenue streams to cover the state's $30 million annual commitment to building the Vikings' new stadium. Baird Helgeson of the Star Tribune explains.
  • Here's a good one: Dayton (a politician) chastised Vikings general manager Rick Spielman for not being "honest about what the heck is going on" in regards to the team's punting "competition" and eventual release of Chris Kluwe. More from the Associated Press.
  • Chicago Bears rookies are excited for their minicamp this weekend, writes Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com addresses whether Bears tailback Matt Forte will be used more often in the passing game in 2013.

Tony Kornheiser raised an interesting point in this "Pardon the Interruption" video clip: How will NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reconcile his support of players who speak out on social issues at a time when two of them, Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, were recently released?

Kornheiser thinks the NFL will have to find a way to get both of them jobs in 2013, while co-host Mike Wilbon isn't so sure. As we discussed earlier this week, there is plenty of gray area in the release of both players to offer the NFL cover. Kluwe is a 31-year-old punter coming off a down year, while Ayanbadejo will be 37 in September.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

If you wanted to make a documentary on how to destroy a career in less than 12 months, former Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young has provided all of the elements. As first reported Tuesday evening by Paula Pasche of the Oakland Press, Young was arrested twice in a span of 15 hours last weekend in southern California.

The first was for suspicion of driving under the influence and the second was for burglary because Young had jumped the fence of an impound lot and was attempting to retrieve his car.

I'm not sure the Lions' decision to draft Young in 2011 looks any different this morning than it did last week. They've already released him, eating the $1.8 million signing bonus they paid him as well as the value of the second-round draft choice they used to acquire him. It was already a disastrous decision. This most recent turn of events reinforces the dangerous and sad life spiral Young is still in.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Here's what Young's former high school coach, E.C. Robinson, said about the incidents via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "Based on the last time I did see him, I knew unless he got some help there was going to be some issues, and I told him that, too. And I thought maybe since I hadn't heard anything from him he was in some institute getting some help. That's what I just figured. But I know the last time I saw him, I was just shocked the stage he was in at that time."
  • The Lions claimed two players on waivers, as Chris McCosky notes for the Detroit News: Linebacker Cory Greenwood and guard Derek Hardman.
  • The Lions will host free-agent offensive lineman Winston Justice on a visit, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com.
  • Mending the Green Bay Packers' defense starts with defensive end Datone Jones and linebacker Nick Perry, writes Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will appear on "The Office" on Thursday night, according to the Associated Press. He will play a judge for a singing competition.
  • Former Minnesota Vikings running back Ted Brown has been selected for induction to the College Football Hall of Fame, notes the AP.
  • Here is a podcast of former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe speaking on ESPN Radio about his release.
  • Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com runs through the recent changes in the Chicago Bears' front office.
  • Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune addresses the Bears' front-office turnover. Pompei: "We have to look at each situation individually to understand what happened."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 11/27
Sunday, 11/30