Vikings Show Guts, Create Fan Excitement

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Vikings Show Guts, Create Fan Excitement
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

As if there is not enough excitement at Winter Park, the Vikings' headquarters, right now, I just wanted to let Vikings fans know they have reason to be jacked up regardless of how this Brett Favre situation turns out.

In last month's draft, the Vikings front office and coaching staff stepped up and did what I didn't expect: drafted a player in the first round with high risk.

Now this is head coach Brad Childress and Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Speilman we are talking about here.

Ever since Childress was hired as the Vikings head coach before the 2006 season, off the field antics have not been tolerated.

One situation will always stand out to me, and this happened before Childress had even coached in a regular season game.

Newly acquired safety Dwight Smith, who was named the starter heading into a week one Monday night game at the Washington Redskins, was charged with indecent exposure the Saturday before the game with a 24-year old woman in a downtown Minneapolis stairwell.

Upon learning about the incident, Childress benched Smith for that weekend's game, moving up rookie safety Greg Blue into the starting role.

Blue managed to play well for a rookie in a nationally televised game and the Vikings pulled out a 19-16 win after Redskins kicker John Hall missed what would have been a game-tying field goal in the final seconds of regulation.

This is when I was impressed with Childress as a head coach.

The media seems to waver on everything. If a head coach sits a starter, he gets criticized for not wanting the best players on the field. If he plays the starter after an off-the-field incident, he is a bad guy who tolerates that type of behavior.

Although fans and media alike have criticized Childress for basically anything he has done in his career (the best was when fans wanted him fired after the Vikings beat the Lions last year), the fact is Childress has taken and improved the Vikings' record each year since taking over in 2006.

Now, he has my approval once more with his decision on draft day a couple weeks ago.

With the No. 22 overall pick, the Vikings took wide receiver Percy Harvin out of the University of Florida.

Before the draft, virtually every story written on Harvin mentioned him as a high-risk guy with numerous red flags.

Harvin tested positive at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and many rightfully accused this as an immature act as all players knew a drug test would be administered.

Days before the draft, Childress flew down to Gainesville to have more time to get to know Harvin.

Many people don't know that Childress got his degree in psychology from the University of Eastern Illinois back in the day, and this was a time that education was put into high gear.

He wanted to evaluate what kind of person Harvin is, what makes him go, and how important football was to the speedster.

When draft day came, fans and media did not have a clue about which way the Vikings were headed with the No. 22 selection.

Many predicted after that meeting that indeed Harvin would be the newest Viking, but others thought the positive marijuana test would turn Childress and the Vikings' front office off to that idea.

Like you know, the Vikings did select Harvin in the first round. The fans at the team draft party in Eden Prairie, Minn. were buzzing with excitement as the pick was announced.

The Vikings projected starters for 2009 will be Harvin and Bernard Berrian, both of whom have the speed to make safeties play them honest.

This will give some relief to third-year player Adrian Peterson, the 2008 NFL leading rusher, who has been used to looking at eight and nine men in the box since his first year in the league in 2007.

The Vikings showed no budging at a time where they couldn't afford to draft a player that would be an off-field distraction.

Harvin looks to turn this offense around, no matter who is under center this year for the Vikings.

And because Brad Childress and company have handled the pressure nicely, there is reason for excitement in Minnesota this year.

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