It’s always something. That’s how fans of the Minnesota Vikings are undoubtedly feeling after hearing the news that star running back Adrian Peterson was arrested early Saturday in Houston after allegedly refusing to leave a club and pushing an undercover police officer. As of this writing, all of the facts about the circumstances leading up to the arrest are not in, but for the purposes of this article, that doesn’t really matter. He’s not the first Viking in recent years to have trouble with the law, as Viking fans know all too well. My assumption (as of now) is that this will all be resolved and blow over quickly and we’ll all forget about it soon enough. That is to say, even though everyone including me is writing about it right now, it’s not really a big deal as far as the team is concerned. The most troubling thing about the arrest is that this is just the latest in a several year long series of events that the Vikings could certainly do without. Drama and distractions have been the hallmark of this team for way too long, and if the Vikings expect to turn things around in 2012, they need to do something about it.
There are a number of colorful ways that the Minnesota Vikings last few years can be described. A few words that immediately come to mind are chaotic, unpleasant, dramatic, and most of all: disappointing. In the span of just over two years, the team has gone from being one of the best in the league, a play or two away from making it to the Super Bowl, to tying the worst record in franchise history and firmly planting themselves in the bottom of their division. There are a number of factors that contributed to this fall from grace, and we should be careful not to lose sight of the big one, that being poor performance by the players. The blame rests squarely on their shoulders for not being able to get it done the past couple seasons. Still, the Vikes have had an above average number of distractions that have played a part in the abysmal two years since the infamous NFC Championship Game.
The 2010 season can be summed up in one word: drama. Before it even began, questions of whether or not Brett Favre would return for a second year in purple seemed to be all anyone could talk about in the world of Minnesota sports. Favre held out through training camp, which certainly wasn’t helpful for the team as a whole. Then as the season began, the Jen Sterger sexting scandal broke, providing further distraction to Brett and the rest of the team. The signing and release of Randy Moss, the Metrodome collapse, and the firing of head coach Brad Childress all combined to make 2010 a tumultuous mess, making the 6-10 record at least understandable, if not forgivable.
That brings us to 2011. The Vikings had a new head coach, a new coaching staff, a new franchise quarterback, and no real offseason to get them all working. The lack of an offseason affected every team in the league, so the Purple don’t really get a pass for that, but still when you have a rookie quarterback and a new offense, you’re already starting slightly behind. The arrival of Donovan McNabb didn’t do anybody any favors, as his poor play was a huge contributor to several early losses. It’s safe to say that Christian Ponder probably didn’t learn a whole lot or pick up any good habits from watching the veteran, and the team as a whole didn’t benefit from his presence. Then in October Chris Cook, the team’s second best cornerback behind Antoine Winfield, was arrested on assault charges the day before a big game against Green Bay and missed the rest of the season. The Vikes went 3-13, thus officially ushering themselves into full on rebuilding mode.
With what is essentially a brand new team this coming season, fans would like to believe that the issues that have been nagging at the Vikings for years now will finally be behind us. Unfortunately, so far this off-season that doesn’t appear to be the case. Percy Harvin’s unspecified issue became a big talking point a few weeks ago at mini-camps, with Harvin asking to be traded and not ever saying why. Newly signed fullback Jerome Felton was arrested on charges of DWI early last month. Now the franchise’s best player has been arrested. All of this, and we’re still two months away from the start of the season. I will say again that I don’t believe this arrest will have any effect on the team as a whole, and Peterson has never been the cause of any type of disruption before (unless you count fumbling on the goal line in an NFC Championship Game). Still, if the Vikings want to make improvement on last season and eventually climb their way back up to being playoff contenders, they need to figure out how to put a stop to all of the drama and distractions and just play football.