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Updated: January 2nd, 2014 6:19pm
Zulgad: On day that should've been quiet, Vikings issue two statements

Zulgad: On day that should've been quiet, Vikings issue two statements

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Vikings should be in the midst of a relatively quiet period, at least when it comes to generating headlines that reach the outside world.

The fact the team is searching for a coach creates the potential for the names of a few candidates to leak out, but this is expected to be a lengthy process and things are probably at least a week from heating up.

But we were reminded Thursday that because this is the Vikings, what should be happening and the reality of the situation are two very different things.

The day started with the team having to release a statement when it was reported that linebacker Erin Henderson had been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving on Wednesday afternoon. It marked the second time in six weeks Henderson had been arrested for alleged DWI.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Jerome Simpson was expected to make a court appearance after he was charged with DWI and refusing to take a breathalyzer in November. He avoided jail time after pleading guilty to two charges, according to the Star Tribune.

This proved to be the tip of the iceberg in the bad news department.

In the late morning, the sports website Deadspin published a lengthy piece from former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe that alleges special teams coordinator Mike Priefer treated him extremely poorly and speculates it was because of his work with Minnesotans for Marriage Equality.

Kluwe labeled Priefer a bigot and called general manager Rick Spielman and former coach Leslie Frazier cowards.

If many other teams had this type of adversity in one day, you might be surprised. But the running joke in six-plus years on the Vikings beat for the Star Tribune was that something would always happen and that wasn't meant in a good way.

Frazier, after being promoted from defensive coordinator to interim coach with six games left in 2010, did his best to limit the distractions that had occurred under Mike Tice and then Brad Childress. That was a big part of the reason why Zygi Wilf decided to give Frazier the full-time job heading into 2011.

But the Henderson and Simpson arrests during this season - not to mention the complete chaos that surrounded the quarterback position - led one to believe that upheaval had returned to Winter Park.

On Thursday, we received official confirmation.

Kluwe provides a play-by-play account of things that happened in 2012, his last with the Vikings, that might assure Priefer doesn't get another job in the NFL. Kluwe was looking for his revenge - he readily admits he wants Priefer out of coaching -- and he just might have gotten it.

Wrote Kluwe: "It's my belief, based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn't agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter.

"One of the main coaching points I've heard throughout my entire life is, 'How you respond to difficult situations defines your character,' and I think it's a good saying. I also think it applies to more than just the players."

If Priefer really said what Kluwe alleges he did, then Kluwe is right about him not deserving any future employment.

Some have thought Priefer might be in line to at least get an interview for the Vikings' coaching job. While there is little to no chance he would have been hired, there is now almost no chance he gets an interview.

What will be interesting is to see how, or if, this impacts Spielman and Frazier, who is reportedly a candidate to become the defensive coordinator for Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay. In some ways, you can't help but think Frazier's guilt is more by association than anything.

Kluwe wrote his piece for publication only days after his friend, former Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell, tweeted that his old team fired the wrong guy when it let go of Frazier and not Spielman. Anyone who was around the Vikings during Longwell and Kluwe's tenure knew that neither was a big Spielman fan.

Kluwe, though, certainly knew that supporting a cause, any cause, is frowned upon in an NFL culture that wants its players to only be heard from on Sundays.

Kluwe's support for same-sex marriage isn't the only thing that some at Winter Park might have objected to.

The Vikings were livid with Kluwe late in the 2010 season when he tweeted that the team should not play a game on the frozen field at TCF Bank Stadium because it would be so dangerous.

The Vikings had been forced to move one home game to the road the previous week after the Metrodome roof had collapsed and there was talk the game against Chicago might be played outside the state as well. The Vikings, though, had no interest in moving another home game to a neutral site and the Sunday before that Monday game, they also had planned a celebration of their 50th season in the NFL.

Privately, the Vikings seethed and dismissed Kluwe's stance as the irrational ranting of a punter. It didn't seem to be nearly as irrational after Brett Favre suffered a concussion when his head and shoulder slammed into the turf as he was sacked during the second quarter.

Kluwe has come to the conclusion he was released by the Vikings because of his views and his willingness to state his views on same-sex marriage. That likely was a big part of it. To believe anything else would be naïve.

But as my former Star Tribune colleague and ESPN.com NFL writer Kevin Seifert pointed out last May after Jeff Locke was drafted and Kluwe was let go, there were other reasons the franchise could point to for why it severed ties with him. This includes some pretty significant savings in the salary cap.

Siefert, and others, have posited that Kluwe likely was cut for performance reasons, unrelated to Kluwe's advocacy.

The Vikings sent out a response to Kluwe's article around 3:30 p.m.

The full statement can be read here. In part, it said:

"Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.

"We will have further comment at the appropriate time."

For most teams having to do this type of crisis management would be no way to start off the New Year. For the Vikings, though, it should come as no surprise.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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