Following center Matt Birk's signing with the Baltimore Ravens, the Minnesota Vikings journeyed into spin control. Among those participating in this venture were head coach Brad Childress, who, predictably, referred to Birk as a "complete professional," and Vikings' player personnel executive, Rick Spielman, who, also predictably, repeated Childress' words of praise for Birk.
While referring to a recently departed player as a "complete" or "consummate professional" is the norm throughout the world of professional sports and is widely understood as a euphemism used to describe a departed player, the Vikings, and Spielman in particular, offered several other euphemisms, and some cryptic or flowery language in an attempt to explain the team's failure to re-sign Birk despite the team's lack of legitimate alternatives at center. The following represent but a few of the many phrases employed by Spielman should be used to understand what Spielman was attempting to say:
"Matt Birk the person as a person"--Matt Birk.
"Minnesota Vikings' organization as an organization"--Minnesota Vikings.
"Ziggy Wilf, Mark Wilf, and the Wilf family"--the Wilfs.
"Great person as a person"--great person.
"Great person"--ex-Viking who we did not come to terms with.
"The Vikings' family"--the Vikings
"Great character"--capable of starting for the Vikings. See, alt., ex-Viking with whom we failed to reach contract terms.
"We let free agents know that we don't want players who don't want to be here"--Birk and T.J. Houshmandzadeh took better offers.
"We have great fans"--we are desperate to maintain a critical fan base willing to shell out $8 for stadium beers and $100 for a team jersey after paying for their pre-season and regular-season tickets and lobbying their legislators for a publicly financed stadium.
"It takes time to develop wide receivers, look at Randy Moss"--it takes time to develop suspect receivers into respectable receivers, see Randy Moss as a counter-example.
"One rarely finds centers early in the draft, look at Matt Birk and Jeff Christy, so, yes, we think John Sullivan is ready to start at center"--Matt Birk and Jeff Christy are as much the exception to the rule as was Joe Montana. We'd feel pretty fortunate if Sullivan evolved into half the player that either Birk or Christy became and even more fortunate if he did so within five years. We're crossing our fingers that we don't need to use him at center this year.
"Sullivan was great in practice"--See, "one rarely finds centers early in the draft."
"Anthony Herrera could slide right into the center position; he's already played some center"--We don't really have any options at center if Sullivan doesn't play over his head this year.
"The thing most fans don't know about Anthony Herrera is that he played hurt last season, and he deserves a lot of credit for that"--There's not much to say about Herrera as a center, so I'll do my best to evade questions about his ability as a center.
"Most of the time when you do a deal that doesn't get done it ends up being the best deal you did"--we overplayed our position in negotiating with Birk.
While understanding what Spielman meant is critical to understanding what he said about the Birk deal, it is equally useful information for understanding what Spielman and the Vikings mean on any number of topics, as evidenced by the related topics quoted above. And it should be particularly useful going forward, should the Vikings find themselves in need of some double-speak to extricate themselves from the team's current commitments, whatever those commitments might be.
Up next: More free-agency. Plus, stadium issues.