When the news broke about the arrest of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson this past weekend, it got me thinking about some things.
Despite not knowing most of the facts about the situation, many fans greeted the news of his arrest with jeers and snickers. I get it, it’s what fans do. Whenever a member of a rival team (especially a hated rival team like the Vikings) does something stupid and gets in trouble, it’s natural for fans of the other team or teams to poke fun at the situation.
Look at all the trouble members of the Detroit Lions have been in. It was obvious Jim Schwartz was leading a team that had many clowns on it last year after the Suh stomping incident, but this offseason has just confirmed it. It’s despicable and a sign of a bad culture inside that locker room. The criticism Schwartz and the Lions have been receiving is deserved.
However, Peterson’s incident (which at the moment sounds incredibly sketchy) deserves no such wrath of fans. Despite playing for “the purple team,” Peterson has been an upright citizen since coming into the NFL and has done nothing wrong previously to earn such scorn from fans.
The only “wrong” he has done is that he made the Packers defense look foolish multiple times and that’s obviously why Packer fans greeted the news with such venom. That reason however is not an excuse to celebrate a guy going to jail who has previously been squeaky clean.
If it sounds like I actually like and respect Adrian Peterson, it’s because I do. As I told Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee on Twitter Sunday, as much as I love the Packers I also love the game of football and respect those who have played and currently play it, regardless of what color uniform they wear.
So yes I enjoy watching Peterson play….in those other 14 games in the regular season just like I enjoyed watching not let the color blindness that is team loyalty cloud our sight or our judgment.
In that theme, I present to you, in no particular order, five NFC North (non-Packer) players I hate to love.
Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings
Before you rip me a new one, please keep in mind I mean in the other 14 games when these teams are not playing the Green Bay Packers.
Watching Peterson run is an incredible thrill. Just when you think he is down for the count he bounces off the would-be tackler and runs 60 yards. The way he gets extra yardage after the first hit is one of the most unbelievable things I have seen in recent memory.
We’re truly seeing one the greats at the position and while I hope he doesn’t win a ring in Minnesota (he deserves better than that franchise), I have to appreciate what he brings to the game and how he is one of the few players that truly transforms football and continues to make it the most fun to watch.
Brian Urlacher, LB Chicago Bears
This has nothing to do with the fact that he has such a great football name. First there was Dick Butkus, and now Brian Urlacher. His name sounds perfect for a linebacker.
Urlacher is a lightning rod for Packer fans, given some of his comments in recent years before the two teams have squared off. I admittedly had a tough time adding him to this list because of those remarks.
However, he plays the game the right way. He hits hard but won’t try to decapitate you like James Harrison of the Steelers. You always have to account for where #54 is on the field and when he is out, it’s evident how much the Bears miss his leadership. That is the sign of a player that needs to be respected. This year he received the Ed Block Courage Award for his dedication to sportsmanship and courage to further solidify his place as one of the most respected players in the NFL.
Calvin Johnson, WR Detroit Lions
Johnson is one those rare talents at the receiver position that come around only once every five years or so. His ability to go up and get the ball is remarkable and earned him the nickname “Megatron” as someone who makes difficult catches seem almost automatic. He’s truly a human highlight reel that is fun to watch.
Even when the Lions are playing the Packers, Johnson will make a tough catch and many Packer fans will pull their hair out and still even go “what a catch.” You are a truly transformative player when even your most hated rivals acknowledge how good you are.
You also can’t help but respect Johnson when you look at his off field behavior. In 2006 while at Georgia Tech, Johnson was given the choice of working in either a luxury condo or building solar latrines in Bolivia. Johnson chose to work with those less fortunate in Bolivia. Throw in how media friendly he is and he is a bright light amongst a lot of dark spots on the Lions.
Matthew Stafford, QB Detroit Lions
One of my favorite non-Packers football memories involves Stafford. In 2009, Stafford’s rookie year, the Lions were playing the Cleveland Browns. The Lions were driving when Stafford took a wicked shot and badly separated his shoulder. Stafford went to the sideline during the injury timeout and despite strong warnings from the team doctors, he trotted back on the field and threw the game winning touchdown pass as time expired.
As fans of a team that once had the ultimate iron man at quarterback, you have to respect Stafford’s toughness.
His career overall, however, got off to rocky start as Stafford missed multiple games each of his first two seasons. Entering 2011, he desperately wanted to shake off the “injury prone” label that had been dogging him his first two seasons in the league.
Stafford stayed healthy and the Lions made the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Stafford threw for more yards than NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Stafford/Johnson combination is arguably becoming one of the most potent in the league.
As one of the players who helped turn the Lions from laughingstock to contender (although they still get laughed at for some players’ boneheaded off-field behavior), Stafford deserves Packer fans’ respect.
Jared Allen, DE Minnesota Vikings
Not since Chris Doleman and Chris Hovan have I seen a Vikings defender get under the skins of Packer fans as much as Allen does.
Is it the way he basically bowed down to Brett Favre in 2010 that gets Packer Nation’s goat? Or is it the fact that he is so darn good?
Allen’s part in the Favre circus of 2010 was embarrassing to say the least. His role in the Vikings entourage that went to Mississippi to retrieve Favre was laughable.
Still, we’re talking big picture here. Allen has been a one man force on the Vikings defensive line and last year would have tied the NFL single season sack record had a certain QB not taken a dive against the New York Giants all those years ago. Allen has been a thorn in the side of Rodgers since #12 took over as starter in 2008 and given his ability to evade the sack, Allen’s ability to stop Rodgers is worthy of begrudging respect.
Yes, Allen has three DUI arrests with the latest in 2007. He has grown up in the past five years and now has become very active in charity events including the JDRF and also participated in a NFL-USO tour visiting our nation’s troops serving our country overseas. Allen created his own foundation that builds homes for wounded troops returning home from tours of duty from Iraq and Afghanistan.
This was a tough list to create and I realize that as a fan of the Packers, I’m supposed to hate everything about our division rivals.
I fully expect to take some flak for this, but Packer fans have earned a reputation as being the most knowledgeable fans in the NFL. So let’s have a little confessional here.
Who are some of the players in the NFC North you like watching? It’s OK to admit it. You’re among friends here.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke