Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and other Vikings talk future, free agency
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MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier attempted to personally shake each player's hand as they entered the locker room for the final postgame in the Metrodome.
Frazier seized a moment to show gratitude to his NFL team, which in the modern era rarely looks the same from season to season.
"I just wanted to be able to thank those guys for what they've done this year, the way they've battled every single week to give us a chance. We didn't always get the ball to bounce our way," Frazier said. "Someone told me the other day that we were 52 seconds [in each game] from...fighting to win our 10th game today. We just haven't completed some things that would've helped us. But it's not because they haven't given us everything they had, so I wanted to thank them."
Frazier referred to the team's multiple late-game collapses in which if the game ended with a minute left, the Vikings would have as many wins to have already secured the NFC North. Plenty of 'what-ifs' spun around the Vikings' locker room after Sunday's otherwise unceremonious win over the Detroit Lions.
What is certain is that there are a handful of Vikings who played out the life of their respective contracts on Sunday afternoon - including the likes of defensive ends Jared Allen and Everson Griffen, defensive tackles Fred Evans and Kevin Williams, along with cornerback Chris Cook and guard Charlie Johnson.
DT Kevin Williams
Avoided the franchise-worst record in points allowed...
Williams: "We didn't break it, right? So that's good. There wasn't any thought about it, I saw it printed somewhere, but no one paid any attention to it. We just wanted to come out and put on a good showing, if the score was 38-35, or 13 points, whatever it was."
Is this your final game with the Vikings?
Williams: "I wouldn't say that. Hopefully I'll play a couple more; that's my hopes and dreams, but it's a business and you have to see what happens when free agency hits. Who knows what will happen."
What's the near future looking like for you?
Johnson: "Who knows; it's kind of out of my hands, I don't really know. I don't know what the future holds. I'd like to think I have a couple more years in me, I can help a team whether that's here or somewhere else."
Personally, would you do anything different this season?
Johnson: "Not really. I feel like every week and myself and this team went out and played hard and the chips didn't fall in our favor. You can't fault the fight we had, you just wish things worked out a little better."
Do you want to be in purple next year?
Johnson: "Ideally I would like to. I've moved once in my career, wouldn't want to do it again. Like I said, it's out of my hands, we'll see what happens."
CB Chris Cook
Glad you at least played in your final contract game?
Cook: "I knew I was going to play the whole week, practiced all week, felt good, came out today, I was a little sick before the game. Body was a little drained, fought through it, pumping fluids the whole game. Fighting, doing everything I could to stay out there."
Do anything different?
Cook: "If I could do anything different, there's a few plays I'd like to have back during the season. You know, it's the game of football man, everybody gets paid. Those guys make plays too and you can't be so upset about it."
Optimistic going into contract talks?
Cook: "Yeah, I'm not really worried about that. My main focus right now is to spend time with my family, rest my body and get ready to come back or whatever my future holds."
Want to be in purple next year?
Cook: "I would love to be in purple. I love playing with these guys in the secondary, especially Harrison [Smith] and Jamarca [Sanford]. Those are two of my guys. I'm just going to let the chips fall where they may."
DE Jared Allen
Last game as a Viking?
Allen: "I don't know. However it falls, I know that the last six years here have been amazing. I could not have asked for more from this organization and I could not have asked for more from this state. It has all just been a blessing for me, for my family and more so just how much I've grown as a man. When I came here when I was 25 compared to how I am now has been life changing. Since then I've met my wife, I got married, and now I have a daughter. It has just been an absolute blessing. I'll take some time to reflect. This isn't just a one-sided decision so we will see. I will have this conversation with everybody and we'll see where it goes. However it works out, it will work out the way it is supposed to."
Any talks this year?
Allen: "No. The conversations that we have had are between us and I'd like to keep it that way. I've always told you guys that I've always been on the same page with them. There's no rug that is going to be pulled out from underneath anybody. I am not naïve to the business side and neither are they."
QB Matt Cassel (can opt out of 2014 option)
What will it take for you to come back?
Cassel: "It's way too early to think about that, but at the same time, I love playing for the Vikings. The fan base here is absolutely amazing. The team was special. It was a great team to play for. I really enjoyed my time with my wife, myself, my kids and a great community and everything else that goes along with it. So, would I love to be a Minnesota Viking? Absolutely, without a doubt."
You look back on this season wondering 'what if I had been the starter all along?'
Cassel: "No. People have asked me that a lot, but the fact is, you stay in the present. Every football season brings its own challenges, brings its own adversities. This season was no different. I'm excited that when I did get the opportunity, I was able to contribute some wins and play well. I am excited about moving forward and what the future holds."