[size=18px]Vikings grateful for receiver's loyalty[/size]

Koren Robinson had a chance to make more money with Green Bay, but he decided he would stay with the team and the coach that initially gave him a chance.

Sid Hartman, Star Tribune
Last update: December 11, 2005 at 8:20 PM


Vikings coach Mike Tice said he is indebted to cornerback Brian Williams for two important reasons.

First, Williams intercepted two passes in the 27-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams at the Metrodome, two of the Vikings' five interceptions Sunday. According to defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, Williams is playing as well as any cornerback in the league.

Second, it was Williams who suggested that Tice approach his North Carolina State teammate Koren Robinson about joining the Vikings. Eventually, the Vikings landed Robinson, a great wide receiver who was out of football at the time.

Sunday, Robinson scored a touchdown on a running play, meaning he has scored on a run, a pass and a kickoff return, the only player in the league to do all three this season. All three touchdowns have come in the past five games. Overnight, Robinson has become one of the Vikings' most effective offensive players, and he has played a big role in the team's six-game winning streak.

Robinson is ready to give Tice credit for giving him a chance following all the personal problems that led Robinson out of pro football.

After being drafted by Seattle as the ninth player overall in the 2001 draft, Robinson was let go in the summer because of a number of off-field problems with alcohol. He had caught 78 passes for 1,240 yards in 2002 and 65 for 896 yards in 2003 before he almost destroyed himself.

Not easy signing

Well, looking back, Tice said it wasn't easy to convince Robinson to join the Vikings.

"My first conversation when I called Koren at the suggestion of Brian didn't go too well, until I admitted to him that I'd made mistakes in my life, too, and I brought up the Super Bowl ticket stuff," Tice recalled. "I said that we all learn from our mistakes and I'm sure you're learning from yours. Then he opened up, and we had a great conversation and I said, 'Hey, all I want from you is this -- we'll fly you in, come visit me.' And he came in, visited and we were able to do a deal."

Said Robinson: "I was just happy to be on the roster, you know, so like I say, I was willing to do anything, play any position or whatever it may be. I'm a humble guy."

And then after Robinson and the Vikings did reach a deal, the Vikings cut him before the season opener, with the intention of signing him again, so that the team didn't have to guarantee his $540,000 base salary.

Robinson said the Packers, who lost Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1, offered to double the Vikings' offer.

Asked if he thought about leaving for Green Bay after the Vikings let him go, Robinson said: "It crossed my mind, it crossed my mind, but my heart told me I needed to stay here. I did think about it."

He said he felt loyal to Tice and stayed with the Vikings and signed a contract that will make him a restricted free agent next season, giving the Vikings the chance to match any offer.

"My heart, you know, I'm loyal," he said. "Minnesota gave me the opportunity, I followed my heart. ... Hopefully I can make [Minnesota] my home.

"Indebted? Yeah, [Tice] gave me the chance, you know, so I feel like I'm proving it. I'm enjoying the opportunity and I'm making the best out of the opportunity, and every Sunday I try to go out there and do my best and just show them that I'm thankful.

"... I feel like I'm more there mentally. I feel like I'm more mature. I just feel like I'm whole now."

Big-play person

In comparing Robinson with ex-Vikings star Randy Moss, Tice said: "Oh, Moss has better ball skills, but this guy is big and strong; he can run, he believes he's invincible on the field, he believes he can make all the plays. He is a big-play guy."

It's amazing. Had Robinson come in and failed on the field, critics would have criticized the Vikings for bringing in somebody with his history. But now that he is a star, his past is forgotten. Those same critics have forgotten about the boat problem now that the Vikings are winning.

Brian Williams stars;

Fred Smoot received $10 million to sign with the Vikings and got hurt. Brian Williams replaced Smoot in the starting lineup, and now Smoot is playing in the nickel defense while Williams has played better and better and will continue to start.

"Brian is playing great football for us," Tice said. "I've really admired Brian since we drafted him. He might be our best athlete on the defensive football team -- I said athlete, I didn't say player -- but he's playing at a high level right now.

"He's a really good blitzer; we've put some blitzes in for him. He had two picks today, and he had one last week, returned for a touchdown that got called back, don't forget that."

Williams will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and one Vikings official questioned whether they will be able to keep him because of the big market for cornerbacks.

Williams didn't report for any of the optional minicamps held in the offseason, but he said that he didn't take part in those because his contract didn't call for him do that.

"I chose to spend time with my family at home," he said.

But some Vikings officials believed it was a contract issue and that Williams was looking for an extension.

He didn't want to take credit for his two interceptions Sunday, or the recent improvement in the defense.

"Everybody's jelling right now, everybody's communicating better," Williams said. "... On the back end, front end, communicating better, so it's just flowing right now for us."

Regarding his free-agent status at the end of the season, Williams said he would keep his options open.

Stop running game;

The Vikings held the Rams to 53 yards rushing in the first half and 108 for the game. St. Louis' Steven Jackson had only 67 yards on 19 carries.

Pat Williams, a cinch to be a Pro Bowl defensive lineman, said the goal of the line is not to let anybody run against them.

"We ain't trying to let nobody run; you all can be just throwing the ball. That's how we're going to win the game," he said. "... They ain't going to beat us running."

Well, the rush of the defensive line had something to do with the Vikings' five interceptions.

Williams said he signed here last offseason because he knew he was joining a good defense.

"It feels great, man," he said. "... It's what I signed for, so everything that I came here for, we're doing it. I'm happy we're doing it."

Williams briefly left Sunday's game because of a sprained knee but returned and said he was fine.

He said he is looking forward to the return of Pro Bowl player Kevin Williams next week against Pittsburgh. Rookie C.J. Mosley has done a good job filling in while Kevin Williams has been hurt, and next week the Vikings should have both available.

"I miss Kevin a lot," Pat Williams said. "... He'll be back at practice Wednesday so I think he'll be back on Sunday."

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. [email protected]