Herald Journal Columns
August 7, 2006, Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch

Too big to play football?

By Matt Kane

I noticed something last week that made me wonder what this world is coming to.

It came from Vikings training camp, where hefty defensive lineman Pat Williams was put on the physically unable to perform list — on the first day of practice.

A pulled hamstring or a sprained ankle I can understand, but Williams was kept out of workouts because he was too fat.

That’s right, TOO FAT!

Weight a minute, I mean wait a minute. Isn’t this the National Football League, where an offensive line without a 300-pounder is like meatloaf without hamburger?

Being too big to play football, now that’s a new one.

With the heat as prominent as it is every summer in Mankato, I’m sure Williams’ safety was a concern for Vikings coach Brad Childress and a main reason for keeping the big guy off the field. The last thing anyone wants is another Korey Stringer incident.

I’m sure Williams isn’t winning any popularity contests within the Vikings’ locker room for being put on the physically unable to perform list. While Childress and the coaching staff are the ones to keep Williams out of drills, it is ultimately the player’s responsibility to come into camp ready to practice and play.

Now, I am not the one to criticize anybody about weight issues, but if Herald Journal Publishing was writing me million dollar contracts — trust me, it isn’t — with the stipulation that I must maintain a solid sportswriter’s weight, I would probably hit the stationary bike a few days a week just to maintain a weight that would allow me to type 40 words per minute.

It is unknown what weight Williams played the final game of the 2005 season at — he is listed at 317 pounds on Vikings.com — but in the six months between seasons you would think the 6-foot-3 Williams could get down to the weight Childress wants him at, which is also unknown.

The weird thing about the Williams situation is he’s not even the heaviest guy on the Vikings’ roster.

That distinction goes to starting tackle Bryant McKinnie, who rumbles around the field at 6-foot-8, 343 pounds, according to the team’s web site. Guard Artis Hicks is listed at 6-4, 335 pounds, followed by offensive tackle Adam Goldberg (6-7, 330), rookie center Ryan Cook (6-6, 328), guard Marcus Johnson (6-6, 321), guard Chris Liwienski (6-5, 321) and offensive tackle Mark Wilson (6-6, 318).

Step outside the Vikings’ locker room and into the rest of the NFL and the purple pounders look like Mick Jaeger on Atkins.

The biggest bruiser in the league is Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Aaron Gibson, who tips, or, more accurately, flattens the scale at around 375 pounds. The Bills’ roster on NFL.com lists the big guy at 410 pounds, which would make him the heaviest player in NFL history. In his solar eclipse of a shadow are Browns’ defensive tackle Ted Washington (365 pounds), Cardinals’ guard Rolando Cantu (361) and Jaguars’ offensive tackle Mike Williams (360).

According to a Jan. 31 article on ESPN.com, more than 500 players were listed at 300 pound or more on 2005 training camp rosters. The same article reported that, in comparing mortality rates of professional football players to Major League Baseball players who have died in the last century, the football players were “more than twice as likely to die before the age of 50.” The experts speculated that weight played a big part in the discrepancy.

“Do you see any oversized animals anywhere in the world living a long life?” former NFL defensive lineman Tony Siragusa questioned in the article.

Siragusa would know. The retired 12-year NFL veteran played at 340 pounds.

That’s 23 pound heavier than what Williams is listed at.

Whether health or playing ability was Childress’ reasoning for keeping Williams on the sidelines is unknown. But maybe he is pioneering a theory not often seen in football — bigger isn’t always better.

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