Most of you have already heard the news that this past weekend former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ben Leber announced officially that he is retiring from the NFL after playing ten seasons with the San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, and briefly the St. Louis Rams. While it certainly didn’t make any national headlines, the announcement may interest Vikings fans who no doubt have at least a few fond memories of the five years that Leber spent wearing the purple. Let’s be honest, we’re in the middle of OTA’s and save for a highlight-reel worthy catch by Jerome Simpson last week and the constant promise that this fresh-faced Vikings team is looking better and better, there’s not a whole lot of Vikes related news to get excited about. So let’s take a quick look back at the career of one of our former players.
The Vermillion, South Dakota native was drafted in the third round of the 2002 draft by the San Diego Chargers, and spent four years there before coming to Minnesota. He played out his final season in St. Louis, but was waived by the Rams in December, after a poor season for all involved. Though he never made it to a pro bowl Leber was solid and reliable for the Vikes, racking up 271 tackles, 12 sacks, and 5 interceptions during his tenure in Minnesota. I know that those aren’t anywhere near Chad Greenway numbers, but remember, I said solid, not exceptional. As well as Erin Henderson played last season, I think that there was a bit of a drop off from the level of play that Leber was at when he was here, at least for much of the season. Fans will surely remember – no matter how hard they try to forget – that Leber was on the wrong side of a terrible pass interference call in the 2009 NFC Championship Game that gave the New Orleans Saints a new set of downs as well as a handful of yards, one of the last in a series of misfortunate events which put an end to the Vikings Super Bowl dreams for that year. But not to worry too much, all anyone remembers about the end of that game is Brett Favre’s awful across the body throw that resulted in an interception.
But as for Leber, he’s happy, he’s healthy, and he’s calling it quits on his own terms, but fear not fellow Ben fans, as we may not have seen the last of him yet. Leber has often expressed an interest in getting involved in “the media side” of football, even participating in the NFL’s broadcasting bootcamp in 2010, a program that allows players to try their hand at reporting and commentating. As well spoken and intelligent as Ben Leber appears to be, it would be no surprise if someday soon we turn on our televisions to watch the game on Sunday and see his shiny bald head breaking down the game for us. Best of luck Ben, Vikings fans wish you well on your future endeavors.