Welcomed in Minnesota, WR Wallace has something to prove
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mike Wallace’s arrival in Minnesota following his trade from the Miami Dolphins to the Vikings brought a fresh start for the veteran receiver, but the baggage from his enigmatic two-year stay in Miami made the trip as well.
Wallace was seen as disgruntled, perhaps wasn’t on the same page with his quarterback and reportedly didn’t get along with the coaching staff in Miami. As is life in the NFL, a player can earn a reputation for being hard to work with. Certainly Minnesota has employed plenty of talented but difficult receivers over the years.
The eyes were on Wallace as he worked through the Vikings’ offseason program. He was present every step of the way. As organized team activities and minicamp progressed, Wallace worked well with his new teammates and coaches.
Wallace felt welcomed.
"Most definitely," Wallace said. "The guys are real cool. The coaches, I love Coach (Mike) Zimmer. Fired up and everything, just like Coach Norv (Turner) but a little different. My coach (wide receivers coach George Stewart), I think I have the greatest group of coaches on the team all together, just the people I have to be around is fun. They keep it exciting every day."
The unexpected union could change the outlook for both sides.
The Vikings needed a true speed receiver, an established threat to assume an important role in coordinator Turner’s offense and in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s development.
Wallace feels like he has something to prove.
He had two productive years with the Dolphins but didn’t match expectations after he signed a six-year, $50 million contract in leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers. While not missing a game in two seasons, Wallace didn’t surpass 1,000 yards receiving in either season. For the first time in his career, he didn’t average at least 13 yards per catch.
Wallace had 73 receptions for 930 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. He caught 10 touchdowns last year but slipped to 67 catches for 862 yards.
"I always feel like I got something to prove, Miami or no Miami, but even more so coming from that," Wallace said. "I think I had a pretty decent year last year. It didn’t end the way I wanted it to, obviously. But we could always get better. I think this is a better place for me, more opportunity to do the things that I’m good at."
His early rapport with coaches and Bridgewater has put the circumstances he encountered in Miami truly in the past.
"I like Mike Wallace," Zimmer said. "He’s got some fire. He comes up to me all the time says, ‘You can’t stop me today.’ I like those guys that are competitors. He works extremely hard. I think he’s developing a good relationship with everybody on the football team and not just Teddy."
Among Wallace’s issues in Miami was a reported disconnect with young quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
So far in Minnesota, Wallace and Bridgewater have been working to make sure they stay connected.
"You just have to continue to put the time in," Bridgewater said. "There are days where we stay behind and we complete passes, we work on routes that we may have ran in practice that day."
The cohesiveness with Bridgewater has been apparent on the field.
"I think it went pretty good," Wallace said of getting on the same page as Bridgewater. "Obviously, you always have things you can work on and get better at, but I think it was really fast."
Wallace said he planned to travel to Miami, where he still has a home, to work out with Bridgewater in between minicamp and training camp. Wallace also spent time in Houston, where he has another home, to train with Adrian Peterson.
"You know he’s going to be in shape, so try and get some of those (workouts) in," Wallace said.
A smiling Wallace appeared happy in his new home. Asked what would satisfy him this season, Wallace said "13-3, 16-0; that would be great, right?"
"That would be proving ourselves, not proving myself," Wallace said. "I just want to go out and make plays and try to make every play that come my way. . . . I can’t worry about, whatever happens, happens. At the end of the day, I want to be a great player."
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