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Williams to Jackson; What “Work Harder” Really Means

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When Vikings’ defensive tackle Pat Williams appeared on Sirius NFL Radio this past weekend, he made a comment about the nature of the beast in the NFL; you have to work your tail off to be any good. Williams mentioned that he has directed that lesson towards the Vikings most current starting quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, saying that Jackson has “to put in more time than what he’s doing”.

Many took these comments as a scathing negative critique of Jackson’s abilities and his potential to be an NFL starting quarterback. However, Williams’ also mentions that “if [Jackson] puts the right time in, he will be a great quarterback in the league [emphasis added]”.

It seems clear that Williams was simply making a statement about the nature of the game. Although never playing professional football myself (I know, can you believe it?), it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any fan or rookie that the amount of attention and hard work needed to succeed at a high level in the NFL is going to be greater than in any other form of competitive play that an individual has partaken.

The NFL is commonly referred to as displaying the best of the best, the fastest of the fastest, and the most criminal of criminals (I’m looking at you, Cincinnati!). In order to succeed, you have to work hard in the NFL.

The question then arises, is Jackson working hard enough? Jackson himself seems to think he is, saying in response to Williams comments that he’s “pretty much figured it out” in regards to how much harder he has to work. Jackson’s not naïve. He realizes that these questions about his work ethic and ability to quarterback the Vikings will keep on appearing until he proves people otherwise, saying that if he plays “better, [he] won’t have to answer all these questions all the time”.

That much is true. His play on the field will make a lot of off field comments subside. And it is good to hear Jackson understanding his role on the team and the need to work hard to achieve greatness. But the main issue seems to be Jackson’s sensitivity to teammate criticism, even if it’s weak, subjective criticism.

In my opinion, Williams’ comments aren’t very damning. Williams is a player that went undrafted and has had to work for every penny he’s received. He knows what it takes to succeed in the NFL, as can be shown by his longevity and his national recognition. And although many media outlets seem to be attempting to redefine Williams’ comments as harsh criticism of a fellow teammate, they fail to take into account Williams’ blunt personality and personal experience.

His comments are not out of line. Every play on the entire team needs to work harder. Any evidence needed can be seen in their first round playoff exit. They all need to get better, and I think Williams made note of Jackson specifically because the quarterback spot has been such a hot issue this offseason. Jackson needs to hear the comments more as a catch all and not threaten major confrontation to “clear the air” between the two players because, frankly, there’s nothing to clarify.

Does Jackson need to work harder? Of course. If he didn’t, he’d have the starting spot locked up. But so does Sidney Rice, Cedric Griffin, Chad Greenway and many other youthful players on the Vikings roster that are slowly transitioning into grizzled veterans, like Pat Williams already is. And hopefully, with that added work, the entire team will benefit.


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