Thursday, October 2, 2003
Former Falcon at home in Minnesota
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Henri Crockett had envisioned
spending his entire NFL career in steamy Atlanta.
And why not? The five seasons he spent with the Falcons were
productive, and he seemed to get better each year.
So what's he doing in frosty Minnesota?
For the Falcons, re-signing the linebacker wasn't a high
priority after the 2001-02 season, even after he recorded a
career-high 81 tackles. The Falcons had other position needs that
had to be addressed first and Crockett was left in the sea of free
On Sunday, Crockett will play against his former team for the
second time since the Vikings signed him in 2002. But he insists
there won't be any hard feelings on his part.
"I left on good terms," he said Thursday.
Unlike fellow linebacker Chris Claiborne, Crockett's history
with his former team isn't a sore spot. Detroit hesitated to bring
Claiborne back this season because of concerns about his attitude
and commitment to conditioning.
Crockett was more a victim of circumstance.
"When you come in and have five successful years, you think
you're going to be there," Crockett said. "The business part
"I really enjoyed my time in Atlanta."
But his time in Minnesota hasn't been too shabby.
Coming off his 81-tackle season with the Falcons, Crockett had
another career year in 2002. He had 94 tackles last year despite
being nagged by injuries. And his versatility helped him make a
smooth transition from middle linebacker to the weakside when
veteran Greg Biekert was signed right before the regular season.
He shifted again this year in training camp when the coaches
decided Claiborne was better suited for the weakside and moved
Crockett to strongside linebacker.
"He'll play whatever spot the team needs him in and I think
that's great for us to have a guy like that here," Biekert said.
Crockett is limited more this season since he's coming off the
line of scrimmage. He's recorded 12 tackles through Minnesota's
first four games while Claiborne and Biekert lead the team with 39
and 28, respectively.
"It's a different style, last year I was able to run a lot
more," Crockett said. "When you're playing (strong-side)
linebacker, you've got to take what you can get. You've got to be
fundamentally sound and patient, but you still can make some
Last year, Crockett's position switch had to be made quickly
since Biekert was signed in early September. This year's transition
has been a little easier since he was shifted in training camp.
"You tend to think of your old spot," Biekert said. "It's
more of a mental adjustment than anything else."
Kind of like the adjustment to a new team. But in just over a
year, Crockett says he's adjusted enough to want to retire in
"I'm not trying to go nowhere else," he said, smiling.
Even though Crockett says he understands why the Falcons let him
become a free agent, he still wanted to send a message when he
faced his old team last season at the Metrodome.
"Last year, going in you just want to show them what they gave
up," he said. "Now, it's like, 'That's over with now.'
"It's really not a big deal."
Crockett had nine tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble
recovery against the Falcons last December. But the Vikings' day
was ruined by Michael Vick, who set a modern NFL record for yards
rushing by a quarterback with 173 and ran for the game-winning
touchdown in overtime.
Lucky for the Vikings this year, Vick is out recovering from a
fractured right fibula. But Crockett says the team shouldn't
overlook backup quarterback Doug Johnson.
"They're still a very, very good team," he said. "Doug
Johnson's a dangerous passer. ... He's got a different style, but
he's very effective."
Andres Ybarra can be reached at aybarra(at)ap.org.