Each year, the Minnesota chapter of Hines Ward Elite Jerseys the Pro Football Writers Association honors one player with the Korey Stringer Media Good Guy Award, presented to the Vikings player who displays the most professionalism and cooperation with the media. Now that our weeks-long embargo on the results is over (seriously, there was an embargo), we can reveal this year's winner: Defensive end Brian Robison.
The veteran left end, who finished second in last year's voting to linemate Kevin Williams, edged several deserving candidates, such as fullback Jerome Felton, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, safety Harrison Smith, cornerback Josh Robinson, linebacker Chad Greenway and wide receiver Jarius Wright. The Vikings' locker room includes a healthy number of players who are engaging and courteous with the media -- a dozen players received votes for this year's award -- and for a writer, it's generally a good group to cover.
Robison, though, probably set himself apart for his willingness to perform one of a player's more unpleasant media functions: stand in front of his locker and answer questions after a tough loss, both on Sundays and Mondays.
"No matter if it's a loss or a win, you want to convey the message -- not only to the media, but to the fans," Robison said. "You all have a job to do, and the fans want to know what you're thinking after a loss. They want to know what type of guy you are, all of those things. The media really has an intricate role in how we relate ourselves to the fans. ... A lot of times, they need to hear that we did not play our best ball, that we didn't get beat on the field, we just didn't tackle well, or we didn't do this or do that. There is a way to convey your message to the fans to let them know that, 'Hey, we're not satisfied with the way this game went. We're going to try to get it fixed.'"
Robison credited former teammates such as Williams and Jared Allen -- as well as current teammates such as Greenway, who won the Stringer Award two years ago -- for showing him how to be a team spokesman in public. We've all spent plenty of time talking about the value of media access in the wake of Marshawn Lynch's refusals to talk (or say anything meaningful) to reporters, and I'm not one to castigate a player for declining to cooperate with reporters. While the NFL requires players to be available to reporters, it's a player's choice how insightful or revealing he wants to be. Some don't see a benefit to doing so, which is their prerogative.
But it's worth noting that Robison and Greenway -- two of the most experienced players in the locker room -- have seen accessibility with the media as a way to portray a message to fans beyond what might be available in a 140-character tweet. Remember Robison's comments after the first Green Bay game, where he said some players had "checked out" of playing the proper scheme? That was his way of letting fans know he understood their frustration, and it probably helped further coach Mike Zimmer's message about players' need to be more committed on defense.
"I never met Brian before I got here or anything like that," Zimmer said. "But I think he helped to kind of preach the message, especially to defensive players, about what we're trying to get done. I asked him to change his game, a lot of things he did, for the betterment of the defense. He is a guy I can go and talk to, and ask him different questions about what his opinion is, what he thinks about. I think those kinds of guys are important when you first get to a place."
It also doesn't hurt, of course, that Robison is able to portray his sense of humor to fans through his comments to the media -- and whether it's been his new hairdo or his maladies somewhere further south, Robison hasn't been shy about letting his personality show this season.
He continued that on Wednesday when he accepted the Stringer Award.
"This award will definitely go in the room with the rest of my NFL accolades," he said. "So, it'll be in a room by itself."