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P.J.R.: Thanks, coach. Now we know Vikings really want Manziel

by Patrick Reusse, 1500ESPN.com Updated 18 months ago | 10761 reads

OK, I was wrong about the Vikings winding up with Manti Te'o in the 2013 NFL Draft. The reason for making that forecast was based on this:

If there's a huge story waiting to attract the attention of the national football media, the odds are strong that it's going to wind up in the laps of the Vikings.

Randy Moss. Brett Favre. Jared Allen. Dimitrius Underwood. The tragedy of Korey Stringer.

There's always something that lands the Vikings even more attention than would seem feasible in the weeks leading up to a new season.

In this vein, I issued this warning to Matt Vansel when I met the Star Tribune's new Vikings reporter on Monday in the newspaper office.

"Don't make any plans for leisure time covering this beat, young man,'' I said. "Just when you think it's safe to take off a Tuesday during a bye week, some Viking will urinate behind a tree in the dead of night and you'll find out the fellows were engaged in a floating orgy.''

That's why I figured Te'o and the story of his imaginary deceased girlfriend would surface with the Purple ... that, and the fact the Vikings did have a need for a linebacker.

This time, I'm basing the pre-draft insight on something more substantial than Te'o winding up here because it was the type of story that seemed destined to play out with the Vikings.

This time, I'm basing it on the lies that head coach Mike Zimmer told during an interview with a radio station in Austin, Texas.

Zimmer tried to distance the Vikings from having a strong interest in Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, based on apprehension over Johnny Football's attention-seeking and celebrity status.

Earlier today at 1500ESPN.com, Derek Wetmore asked the question: "Should Vikings followers put any weight at all in Zimmer's comments?''

Yes, we should put plenty of weight in those comments, because we now know for sure that the Vikings are absolutely drooling at the opportunity to select Manziel in next month's draft.

Two years ago, General Manager Rick Spielman was able to run successfully his scam that the Vikings "might not take'' left tackle Matt Kalil with the third pick. Since then, he and his insiders at Winter Park have considered themselves the biggest brains in any of the 32 war rooms.

And now that Spielman has been able to finally hire a coach he wanted in Zimmer, Rick clearly has a full partner in the scheming.

Les Frazier tried to assist with the pre-draft subterfuge, but you already can tell that Zimmer's much better at it, much more into the "damn, we're smart'' attitude that permeates Spielman's football operation.

The Vikings were prominent at what turned out to be a hellacious workout for Manziel last week in College Station. Every football guy there was impressed, now we're supposed to believe the Vikings have doubts about Manziel because he, what, slurped his soup when he was at dinner with the Minnesota delegation?

There was that TV commercial with LeBron, and all the celebrity onlookers at the workout, and the fact he might stay out late on occasion, and, ah, we aren't sure we would want him, Zimmer says.

No, Mike, you and Spielman and Norv Turner and Zygi Wilf ... we now know that you all want Manziel.

Heck, you might even be willing to move up two or three spots from No. 8 to get him, after Blake Bortles is selected. What you don't want is for other Johnny-loving teams to be aggressive in moving forward to select him.

What you want is for the competitors for a quarterback to figure the Vikings are soft on Manziel, and maybe you can slip forward with the 8th and a third-rounder to take him.

Hey, the Cleveland Browns were dumb enough in 2012 to think Spielman was willing to sacrifice Kalil by allowing another team into the 3-spot, and those Brownies ... they just couldn't risk someone jumping up there to take running back Trent Richardson.

Really. Trent Richardson. Nice pick, Browns; nice trade, Colts.

Maybe there are a couple teams that need a quarterback that will buy the idea the Vikings won't take Manziel because he's too much of a celebrity ... as if a team trying to sell $100 million of seat licenses doesn't want a celebrity at quarterback.

Go for it, coach Zimmer. Keep telling the lies. They are harmless and, even better, humorous.


Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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