Monday, December 1, 2008

The pulse of the locker room

Mike Brown has one in Cleveland. So does Mike Smith in ATL.

Now I read where the Vikings have one, too.

Theirs is called a "veteran leadership council," the team's "liaison for the locker room."

MIN coach Brad Childress called the VLC into action recently when RB Adrian Peterson arrived late to a meeting.

"Even though Vikings coach Brad Childress had no plans to waver from how he handles such matters, he also did not ignore the fact that others could be affected by the decision. Childress gathered his veteran leadership council to inform them of his plan."

"It was almost unanimous," Childress said of the reaction. "As soon as I said it [they said], 'You've got to be consistent.' It wasn't even, 'Oh no, not the best player on the team.'"

The players might not have been able to change Childress' mind, but at least they felt in the loop and, in this case they agreed.

"I think there has been a good give and take with the committee on certain things," said kicker Ryan Longwell, who is in his second season on the council. "There's things that as a coach you have to make the decision. Whether your players agree with it or not there are certain things that you need the pulse of the locker room. You kind of get some input that way."

Coach Childress "assembles the group once every two weeks. Issues range from sitting a player such as Peterson to how players are feeling late in the season to the minutiae of travel."

In training camp, for instance, the group talked to Childress about being allowed to wear blue jeans on road trips instead of dress slacks. Childress acquiesced as long as players who wore blue jeans also wore a sport coat and collared shirt. Tennis shoes are still a no-no. A year before, having the team stretch as a group before games was scrapped in the preseason when players felt it wasn't effective.

Coach Childress said he "likes having the council because it not only gives him a better feeling for what is going on in the locker room but it also puts responsibility on players to police things. This is especially helpful when it comes to rookies or new players who might not be familiar with how the Vikings operate."

"We [live] in an, 'It's an all-good society,'" Childress said. "[Where], 'That's OK if this guy wants to smoke a little dope, that guy wants to drink and drive, that guy wants to tear it up and have a headache on Friday morning because it's the last day of practice on Thursday.' [It has to be], 'Hey, listen, pal, don't come in here like that. I don't want to smell alcohol on your breath.' Well, it's going to do way more with a peer saying it. Those guys are strong enough in who they are as people and as players, they're all at different stations of life [and can say], 'This is important and here's why it's important.'

[Each] position voted a guy and sent him to me. I just said it has to be somebody that can communicate, somebody that can stand up and say something, that doesn't have to take things hook, line and sinker if they disagree. Good teams have good internal [leadership] in the locker room so that if there is an issue, 'Hey, Coach, what about this?'"

According to one member of the VLC: "It's a really good communication from what's going on upstairs, what he's thinking. It's kind of one of those deals where he's looking for opinions on things, but he's still the one who's coming up with the final say. It's not the players all by themselves deciding exactly what happens. Coach Childress is going to have final say on all that stuff. But it's good to talk about it and communicate."