- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"C'mon, man, I'm just trying to be friendly. Talk to me, A.T.!"
Again, no response as the two lined up across from each other. "Hey, nice job coming back from that knee injury. You were real emotional, weren't you?"
Taylor looked at Randle and was about to acknowledge him when the ball was snapped. Randle burst through the line and nailed Favre as he was throwing the ball away. Favre yelled at Taylor, telling him not to fall for that ploy again. Randle got up and leveled a singsong scream at Taylor, a la Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, "A.T.! There's no crying in football!" Randle had 3½ sacks that day as the Vikings rolled to a 30-21 win.
All players watch tapes of their opponent the week before a game, but Randle also watches video of his previous four games. He studies his own tendencies, tries to determine how his foe will counter and then makes adjustments. "Against Indianapolis last season, I'm playing a rookie, Adam Meadows," he says. "I did a lot of moves he'd never seen. Then when he was ready for me to speed-rush around him, I powered him into the backfield."
Randle's two sacks against the Colts, in the season finale, gave him 15½ for the year and his first NFL sack title. But why, he was asked, did he need to work so hard the week before the game against a rookie who had been struggling mightily?
"I take no one lightly," he says. "I will never look back at a game and think I could have done more. These are the best players in the world. It's an honor to be out there. You have to treat the game with respect."
That's why the Denver Broncos, the Miami Dolphins and the Philadelphia Eagles tried to pry Randle from Minnesota this winter in the first days of free agency. Because he was designated a transition player, the Vikings had the right to match any offer. But because Minnesota had been loath to hand out big signing bonuses, other teams hoped they could lure Randle if they structured an offer with a lot of cash up front. When Randle visited Miami, the Vikings' offer was on the table; it included a $10 million bonus, of which $7 million was to be paid in 1999. The Dolphins offered an $11.5 million bonus that would be paid immediately. During his visit to Miami, Randle dined with Dolphins defensive line coach Cary Godette and end Daniel Stubbs, who asked if he would like to see the areas where most of the players lived or the Miami nightlife. "I don't care about any of that stuff," Randle replied. He excused himself after dinner to watch wrestling on the TV in his hotel room. "To be honest with you," he says, "I don't care if I play in Alaska or the middle of a desert. Just give me 10 teammates and a chance to get to the Super Bowl, and I'll be happy."
The day after Randle's trip to Miami, Minnesota offered to pay $1 million more of the bonus up front and guaranteed more of the money in the later years of the contract. That was good enough for Randle and his agent, Gary Uberstine. The deal was signed in an airport hotel in Houston, and Randle celebrated that night back home with a McDonald's burger and a De Niro movie. Alone.
He knows he will be a marked man on the field because of the money he's making. But when asked to name the first thing he'll do with his loot, he answers quickly, "Not change."
"In my life," the 30-year-old Randle says, "I've chopped cotton, picked watermelons, built fences, worked on an assembly line, worked in an oil field, built scaffolding. You know what? Those jobs are harder than football. So I'll never take it easy in football. I remember how I grew up."