Brainerd High School students received extra excitement Friday at a mid-morning pep fest.
They also received proof that not all of the Minnesota Vikings have been either released, traded or lost to free agency.
Current Vikings defensive back Robert Tate joined former stars Joey Browner and Darren Nelson, among others, at the Brainerd High School gym to speak to and mingle with Brainerd students. The Vikings came to the Brainerd lakes area as part of "Arctic Blast," a snowmobile rally and winter party to benefit the Viking Children's Fund.
Tate, who moved from wide receiver to cornerback last season, spoke of his high school years and the importance of hard work in the classroom to the almost jam-packed gathering of Warrior students. He also participated in a four-way volleyball game and a tug of war with Brainerd students and faculty.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder, who has also been one of the Vikings top special-teamers, is in his fourth year with Minnesota. And the recent rash of deployments by the Vikings has Tate concerned.
So far in the off season, the Vikings have lost almost their entire coaching staff; released veterans Randall McDaniel, Jake Reed and Andrew Glover; lost center Jeff Christy to free agency, and more than likely will say goodbye to running back Leroy Hoard, cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock and quarterbacks Jeff George and Randall Cunningham.
"They have to come under their budget and a lot of guys in the league make a lot of money," Tate said. "Sometimes you can be a great player but hit that wall where it comes down to you have to sign these guys or not sign these guys. It's a tough situation but we have to go out there as a team and just play."
Tate, who was to be a free agent at the end of the upcoming season but was resigned on Feb. 10, has naturally made some good friends on the team, but he said keeping that separate from what you have to do on the field is important.
"It's just part of it," Tate said. "I've been here for three years and people come and go and I see a lot of guys that had friends and their friends go and they'll be down and out. But you also have to go out there and play and help your team win."
The Vikings have cleared upwards of $20 million in cap room over the off season to get under the $62.2 million cap for the 2000 season.
The Vikings are currently in discussions with Cunningham and John Randle to see if they could restructure their respective contracts. Five current Vikings -- Robert Griffith, Korey Stringer, Todd Steussie, Orlando Thomas and Ed McDaniel -- have already restructured their contracts to help the team sign additional free agents.
The Vikings were last in the NFL in total defense last year, so naturally Tate would like to see them concentrate on that side of the ball come free agency.
Tate was switched from his wide receiver position to defensive back in the middle of last season to shore up the weak defensive backfield. After playing receiver in high school and college, he said he was a little hesitant but has adapted well.
"Denny Green is a great coach and he knows what he's doing and he's going to get the best to help this team win," Tate said. "I think that they'll be more concerned on the defensive end because we were dead last. I feel we've got the players that can do it; we can turn it up at any time, but we have to be consistent and come to play every Sunday."
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