What a long, strange trip it's been

What a long, strange trip it's been

Published Dec. 14, 2010 5:03 p.m. ET

Posted: Dec. 14, 2010 6:08 p.m. CT


The media is often guilty of hyperbole, but I think we can all safely agree, without exaggeration, that 2010 has been the most bizarre year in the Vikings' 50-year history.

And it's not even close.

Now that the team has been officially eliminated from the playoffs and is set to play for nothing more than pride for the first time in several years, a look back at the long, strange trip seems somehow appropriate.

It all began at the beginning of the calendar year, on Jan. 24 in New Orleans, where a "12 men in the huddle" penalty in the NFC Championship Game effectively ended the Vikings' Super Bowl aspirations. The rare, ill-timed infraction was merely an omen of things to come in 2010.

Things started getting a little awkward when training camp opened without a decision from Brett Favre on whether he would return for the final season on his contract, even though expectations were sky high after coming so close to the Super Bowl the previous season.

But since Favre's absence had become par for the course, this wasn't the biggest shock of July. More surprising was the training-camp absence of Pro Bowl wideout Sidney Rice, who was still sidelined by a hip injury he suffered in the NFC title game. More than one doctor had reportedly recommended surgery on the hip in the spring, but Rice chose instead to listen to those who suggested rest might do the trick. It didn't, and he missed all of camp.

Then things got really weird.

As training camp wound down, reports surfaced that Favre had texted teammates that he was not going to return; Favre, of course, denied those reports soon thereafter.

At about the same time a report from Deadspin.com ignited the Jenn Sterger rumors that would later blow up into a full-fledged controversy.

Shortly after camp closed and preseason games began, head coach Brad Childress commissioned three veteran leaders from his team (Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen) to fly to Hattiesburg, Miss., to get Favre's final answer about whether he would play in 2010. The mission of the so-called "Good cop, bad cop and funny cop" was to come back with Favre in tow.

Their mission was a success but not before Childress forced two of his assistant coaches to lie to the media about the covert operation. "Chilly" would apologize the next day for putting his coaches in such a position. It wouldn't be the last time Childress would lie to the media.

Favre returned to the Vikings on Aug. 17 amid a surreal, circus-like atmosphere at Winter Park