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Athletics: Kicking it with Kramer

Many Minnesotans cheered for Tommy Kramer during his 14-year NFL career with the Vikings. The 64-year-old father of two is now giving back to the game by helping promote it through youth football fundraisers across the lakes area. The next one wi...

Brayden Kern gets a handoff from former Minnesota Viking Tommy Kramer Saturday, June 1, at Franklin Arts Center before the Minnesota Lakes Area Snowmen's game against the Minnesota Vipers. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery
Brayden Kern gets a handoff from former Minnesota Viking Tommy Kramer Saturday, June 1, at Franklin Arts Center before the Minnesota Lakes Area Snowmen's game against the Minnesota Vipers. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery

Many Minnesotans cheered for Tommy Kramer during his 14-year NFL career with the Vikings.

The 64-year-old father of two is now giving back to the game by helping promote it through youth football fundraisers across the lakes area.

The next one will be 6-10 p.m. Thursday, June 6, at Kiwanis Park in Little Falls.

Kramer and former teammate Ted Brown will be on hand to sign autographs. There will be a free concert by The Johnny Holm Band followed by a DJ. Karaoke will be at Falls Bar until midnight. For tickets and more information contact James Kern at 218-831-1400.

But before he does that, Kramer sat down and answered a few burning questions.

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Q: What brings you up to the Brainerd lakes area?

Tommy Kramer: We used to come here a long time ago when the Vikings had their charity golf tournament at Madden's. I've been up here a lot of times and now I'm up here to help out with the camp. We're trying to raise money to support all the kids so they can play football for free.

We'll be out there with them and teach them how to throw and mainly just to get them outside. Everybody is on those Playstations now and you can't even get the kids outside for anything.

Q: You're not a stranger to the area as we hear of many sightings of you around. What keeps you coming back?

TK: It's a lot cooler up here than it is in San Antonio. It makes it a pretty easy choice.

Q: How is your body holding up? We hear so much about concussions and the after effects. But people often don't realize there's a lot of other lasting effects a former NFL player has to deal with. How about you?

TK: My neck, I hurt that in 1987, and that hurts now. When my head tips back, my arm goes numb. I had my right knee replaced. I have arthritis everywhere. I've got neuropathy. It runs up both legs and everything. Sometimes it will itch. Sometimes it will burn and other times it will just jump. You don't know what you're getting next.

My pains really didn't happen until I turned 60 years old. Then all of a sudden things started coming and hurting. I had my knee replaced that year.

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Q: Here is my typical question, but how has the game changed from when you played and has it changed for the better?

TK: It changed for the better as far emphasizing head injuries and they're going after people that hit with the face mask. They're also not trying to cut people's knees out from under them. Especially if there is a wide receiver going up for a pass. Before they could just wipe him out.

Q: Would you have liked to play in today's game with quarterbacks throwing for 300 yards a game on a regular basis and passing being emphasized more?

TK: It would be really nice to have played now. I could have played probably, I ended up playing 14 years in the league, I could have easily played another five or seven years if I hadn't had those injuries.

Q: The Minnesota Vikings finally addressed their offensive line in last April's NFL draft. Was it a good draft for Minnesota?

TK: It was the best one they've had in awhile, I can tell you that. I told them two years ago, "Y'all need to get some offensive linemen." They got their $84 million man, you better have somebody to protect your investment. And that's only going to be an offensive linemen.

Q: How undervalued, underrated is a good offensive line?

TK: You better have a good offensive line if you're going to throw the ball and now everybody is throwing the ball. You have to have that good offensive line.

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Q: Was there any defensive player you were afraid of? A guy that just seemed crazy?

TK: I wouldn't say I was afraid of them, but they were just better than most of them. Lawrence Taylor, Charles Haley, Bruce Smith, Ronnie Lott and Reggie White. Those were probably the elite pass rushers of that time. Ronnie Lott wasn't a pass rusher, but he knew your offense better than you did.

Q: Who was the toughest defender to game plan for and why?

TK: Those pass rushers, you had to have two people to block those guys. They were too tough, especially if you had to have a running back block them. You tried not to, but they're the elite group.

Q: How difficult is it in today's NFL to do what the New England Patriots are doing with their continued level of success?

TK: No. 1, they have good coaching. They have a good quarterback and have had him for a long time. Somehow they find the pieces to put together. They're not just pass happy. They run the ball, too. And they play some pretty good defense.

Q: You played against some of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game like Joe Montana and John Elway, to name a few. How does Tom Brady compare to the greats?

TK: I don't think Brady is as athletic, but he's very accurate and very smart. Montana was good. (Dan) Marino was good, Dan Fouts and Jim Kelly. Then the Raiders had Ken Stabler. That guy would get eight seconds to throw the ball with his offensive lines.

Q: People still argue the Vikings picked the wrong quarterback when they landed Kirk Cousins. Some say they should have gone with Teddy Bridgewater or stuck with Case Keenum. What's your thoughts on the Vikings quarterback situation?

TK: With Kirk Cousins, it takes a good year to develop a relationship. There is so much information with how these guys run their routes. The little things that they do and there are things you have to tell them with what I would need. You can't just do it in one year. Especially, if you can't keep your quarterback upright.

Q: Are quarterbacks overpaid? Why I ask is we see these up and coming teams like Seattle and Los Angeles with young quarterbacks who are paid a lot less than costly veterans. Their teams make the playoffs and even win a Super Bowl in the case of Seattle. However, as soon as they have to pay their QB it seems like those teams hop on a downward spiral. Your thoughts?

TK: That's true. That's the way the league is run now. Quarterbacks make good money. Usually the best money. I just wish I would have been a little younger.

Q: What's your fondest memory of your years in the NFL and what do you miss most about those years?

TK: There's a couple of football games against the 49ers back in 1977. Then against the Cleveland Browns with the Hail Mary back in 1980. We had a really good offense back then. We went out to San Diego and ended up having a shootout with (Dan) Fouts. We ended up beating them 33-31.

One of the fondest memories was throwing six touchdown passes against the Packers in 1986. But I didn't even get to play the whole game. The first half I threw five touchdown passes. Came out for the second half and threw another one and (former Vikings head coach Jerry Burns) said go over there and sit on the bench. I said, "Darn it Burnsie, I could throw 10 of them at least today. Maybe 12."

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGSFOOTBALL
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