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Dealing With Drama

Posted Nov 3, 2010

Every team has some, so coaches, players must find ways to cope

The quarterback position always has a chance to create a little drama, whether it be the growing pains of Max Hall (left) or the injuries (and other issues) of Brett Favre.


Brad Childress considered for a moment the question, about how his Vikings players reacted in the meeting room earlier this week when the coach gave them the news he would be cutting Randy Moss.

“It wasn’t an audience participation thing,” Childress deadpanned.

“My job was to let them know what the landscape was,” Childress added.

The landscape is rocky in Minnesota, where the Cards play Sunday. NFL teams all have some drama here and there – the Cards have had their own with their quarterback situation – but the Vikings have cornered the market in a lot of ways, thanks to Brett Favre and Moss and a season gone awry with a 2-5 record.

How a team deals with such drama can affect a season. Some distractions are inevitable. Franchises are always a big story and the fan base always wants to know as much as they can about a team. Every move is scrutinized.

“I was always told, ‘Mind your own and you’ll live longer,’ ” veteran offensive lineman Rex Hadnot said. “Some guys feel it’s the leadership role that needs to step in and bring distractions down. Others, like myself, walk straight and help the team and if it crosses my path deal with it but if not, keep the blinders on and remember what we do. We play football, we don’t indulge in drama. Leave that to VH1.”

Since coach Ken Whisenhunt has arrived, such situations have been kept to a minimum. Anquan Boldin caused a stir when he opened training camp in 2008 complaining about his contract, but that faded by the time the season started. Boldin’s outburst during the NFC championship game made ripples, but that was lost in the euphoria of a Super Bowl trip.

The quarterback rotation this season, including the release of Matt Leinart, also has created a little bit of a side story, but nothing that has hampered the locker room. Quarterback Derek Anderson, who went through plenty of drama in Cleveland when he was battling Brady Quinn for the starting job, intentionally stayed low-key recently when he was benched for rookie Max Hall.

“It does nothing but tear a team apart, allows (the media) to grab bits and pieces of things and make a big deal out of things that probably aren’t a big deal,” Anderson said. “I want to win football games. Obviously I want to be the quarterback when we are winning football games but if I’m not in there I don’t want to be a distraction.”

Whisenhunt, who has played or coached in the NFL for all but two of the last 25 years, said every distraction is a little different, making it difficult to deal with each the same.

“You have to focus on what you think will give you a chance to win,” Whisenhunt said. “You have to be consistent with your message. I think if you have a standard that you hold the team to, for practice, for how they prepare, for how they play the games, I think it will eliminate the drama or at least ease the drama.”

The Cardinals always knew there would be some drama around the Vikings once they got to Minnesota week; Favre’s arrival/injuries/text scandal has constantly kept the quarterback in the national news. Favre’s uneven play – and the Vikings’ record – helped prop up the headlines.
Moss’ arrival created more havoc, although Moss himself quickly faded into the background – until his postgame rant this past weekend drew attention and ultimately foreshadowed his shocking release.

Star running back Adrian Peterson – himself almost a forgotten figure – was asked on a conference call if he wondered what a normal week of work would be like. Peterson chuckled and said, “Yeah, I do.”

“We haven’t done a great job of navigating the landscape at where we are at,” Childress said. “You’re record is what you are. From that standpoint, losing is never much fun. The drama, I don’t know, same thing. It’s football. There are always going to be additions and subtractions on your football team right from the day training camp starts and some are more dramatic than others.”

Not surprisingly, the Cardinals wanted no part of talking about the Vikings’ issues. Whatever the Vikings are dealing with doesn’t change what the players see on film, or what they will see Sunday on the field.

That doesn’t mean they don’t understand how hard drama can be.

“If it gets going too hard, it’s past the point of cutting it off,” said safety Kerry Rhodes, who went through his share while playing in New York. “In general, if it gets to that point, if you have lingering problems, it’s tough to turn back. It’s going to affect the team.”
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