Berrian finds right fit in Minnesota
Bernard Berrian was never going to stay with the Bears.
“They weren’t going to come out of the box and pay for that,” Berrian, who signed a six-year, $42-million contract with the Vikings in the offseason, said in a teleconference.
Because the Bears didn’t think he was worth it? Or because a team with six 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the last 50 years doesn’t think any receiver is worth $42 million?
“Either or,” Berrian said. “You can toss it up. Flip a coin.”
How about a nickel? Mike Ditka, back when he was a tight end, not a coach, was one of those 1,000-yard receivers. The Bears wound up trading him after he complained they tossed around nickels as if they were manhole covers.
But the Bears don’t seem to mind if their rivals pay their former players.
“We’re happy whenever some of our guys can get set up for life,” coach Lovie Smith said about Berrian, who led the Bears with 951 yards receiving last year. “We know he’s happy there, so it’s worked out well for them. And we’re happy with the direction we’ve gone.”
Berrian didn’t think he’d ever be truly happy in Chicago.
“It was hard being a receiver over there,” said Berrian, who returns to Chicago for Sunday’s Bears-Vikings game having set career highs in receiving two weeks in a row (110 yards, then 131). “It was a carousel, a quarterback carousel.”
He didn’t exactly join Peyton Manning in Minnesota, either. The Vikings (3-3) switched from Tarvaris Jackson to 37-year-old journeyman Gus Frerotte after an 0-2 start.
“That absolutely shocked me. I had no idea it was coming,” Berrian said. “I’ve been through it before, but I didn’t expect that to be happening up here. I wanted it to be set already, to be one or the other. I didn’t want it to be still up in the air and having me playing a guessing game.”
Yet Minnesota’s QB carousel helped him thrive. Berrian averaged 19 yards receiving in two games with Jackson and 99.5 in four games with Frerotte.
“Sometimes you get better play out of it,” Berrian said. “Sometimes you don’t. It just depends on the situation.
“Over there, we were rotating back and forth. Three quarterbacks played. That’s not the case over here. It’s pretty much set in stone.”
Berrian figured if he stayed in Chicago the carousel would stop on the wrong quarterback, with Rex Grossman beating out Kyle Orton, who actually won the job. He said he always believed Orton’s “style of play enables them to win easier,” but just assumed “Rex would be the guy.”
Berrian’s never going to be the guy in Minnesota the way Randy Moss once was. Not with Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Berrian remains a distant second on Chicago’s defensive to-do list Sunday after Peterson ran for 244 yards on 20 carries on last year’s visit to Soldier Field.
And that’s just the way Berrian wants it.
“I got more safety help in Chicago than here,” Berrian said. “We’ve got Adrian in the backfield. You’ve got to stop him first before anything.”
He said that gives him more of a chance to be a star receiver in Minnesota than he ever would have had in Chicago.
The way Berrian stars is with the home-run catch. He ranks third in the NFL with 19.8 yards per catch.
“Bernard likes to stretch the field,” Bears cornerback Corey Graham said. “We know he’s going to go deep. He’s a big deep threat.”
“He’s come through,” agreed Frerotte, “when we’ve needed him.”
And now he’s coming back to try and torch his old team.
“I’m here. I’m a Viking. It won’t be too weird,” Berrian said.
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 firstname.lastname@example.org.