Crawford helps himself by suggesting position change
Midway through the Minnesota Vikings’ preseason training camp, linebacker Mike Crawford realized his chances of returning to the NFL were growing slim.
Lacking the speed of other outside linebackers, Whittell High’s No. 1 football alum was struggling for recognition and repetitions during team workouts.
Hence, the two-time All-Big West Conference linebacker only played on special teams during the Vikings’ first two preseason games.
But before the third practice game against the Indianapolis Colts, the 238-pound Crawford approached the coaches about a position change.
“I asked them to move me to middle linebacker. That’s where I can help this team,” Crawford said.
Reluctant at first, Viking coaches embraced Crawford’s suggestion when one of their middle linebackers was injured during the nationally televised game with the Colts.
“That’s where they saw I could play linebacker,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played the middle – since Miami – and it’s good to be back. It’s where I feel at home.”
His playing time at linebacker expanded from a quarter and a half to three quarters the following week when the Vikings closed out the preseason at Miami.
“When you come into camp in the position I came – a late signee, a couple days before camp – you’re on the bottom of the totem pole and you have to work your way up, anyway possible,” Crawford said.
The preseason finale gave Crawford a chance to renew old acquaintances in Miami.
“I talked to Zach (Thomas) on (Sunday) and we were talking smack on the sidelines,” Crawford said. “It was fun messing with all those guys and good to get back down there and see them all.”
Crawford even said, “What’s up?” to the Dolphins’ head trainer – a sore spot in his relations with the team during his 1997-98 seasons in Miami.
“I don’t have any hard feelings, man. Thing were cool,” said Crawford, who underwent two abdominal surgeries while he was with the Dolphins. “Things didn’t work out. I’m kind of over holding grudges. If you’re into holding grudges, you’re going to have plenty of them in the NFL.”
Crawford’s impressive performance in Miami was tainted by his unfortunate injury on the game’s final play. Several lineman rolled into his right ankle, severely spraining it. Crawford was carried off the field, but the pain subsided the next day when he found out he made the team.
His euphoria only last 24 hours. The Vikings traded for two backup players on Saturday, forcing them to cut two additional players to reach the 53-player limit. Crawford was one of the two cuts, but the Vikings signed him to the practice squad Monday after he cleared the 24-hour waiver wire, where any other team in the league could have picked him up.
“It’s all a bonus, man,” Crawford said. “I was prepared for football to be done. I was ready to move back to Tahoe and either become a firefighter or go back to school.
“It was understandable with me being questionable (for Sunday’s game against Carolina) and me not being a starter.”
Moreover, Crawford believes he has a future in Minnesota.
“It’s a different situation the second time around. Having been through it once, I’m older and maturer about everything,” Crawford said. “I think it’s a pretty good situation. I have a lot of opportunity here in the future.”
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