Vikings receiver Mike Wallace vows to be ‘a better person’
MANKATO, Minn. -- Mike Wallace spent two controversial years with the Miami Dolphins, becoming the center of attention for what he often said, and often didn't say.
MANKATO, Minn. - Mike Wallace spent two controversial years with the Miami Dolphins, becoming the center of attention for what he often said, and often didn’t say.
After signing a five-year, $60 million contract as a free agent in 2013, the wide receiver had a brief, turbulent Miami tenure that ended with him on the bench for the second half of last December’s regular-season finale against the New York Jets.
In March, he was traded to the Vikings, who hope a change of scenery will lead to him being the player he was when starring for Pittsburgh from 2009-12.
Four months after the deal, Wallace says he has a better idea of what went wrong in Miami, where his production slipped significantly. On Day 2 of training camp Monday at Minnesota State Mankato, he said he’s determined to turn it around in Minnesota.
“(I’m trying) my best to be a leader this year and do a much better job in that department than I have been before,” Wallace said. “(I’ve got) to be a better person and a better player and lead more.
“You take experiences that you have in your life and just learn from them. Some are good and some are bad, but you have to build from it. I know some mistakes I made in Miami. I know some good things. So I try to leave the bad and take the good.”
Wallace got a lot more publicity for the alleged bad things.
After he caught just one pass for 15 yards in his first game with the Dolphins, he was criticized for refusing to talk to reporters, even though Miami had beaten Cleveland, 23-10.
Last season, after the Dolphins defeated Jacksonville 27-13, Wallace got heat for criticizing Miami’s offense after a game his team won because of two defensive touchdowns.
And after what turned out to be Wallace’s final game with the Dolphins, reports surfaced that he had declined to play in the second half of a 37-24 loss to the Jets. He claims he was benched by coach Joe Philbin.
Nevertheless, Wallace’s behavior after the game was bizarre. After the game he stood next to then-Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Gibson, who answered all the questions directed at Wallace.
“You get frustrated at times when things are not going your way. You’re not winning, you’re not doing the things you expect out of yourself, you’re not meeting your goals, and you get frustrated,” Wallace said. “And I have to do a better job of holding that frustration in sometimes. I work hard. If I’m not getting results, I want to get frustrated, but I have to do a better job of not showing it.”
During his two seasons with the Dolphins, Wallace caught 140 passes for 1,792 yards for a pedestrian average of 12.8. That paled in comparison to his days in Pittsburgh, where he had 1,257 receiving yards and a 21-yard average in 2010 and made the Pro Bowl in 2011.
“Situations don’t always work out every time,” he said. “Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Just that one (in Miami) didn’t work. … But now I’m on a different team and looking forward to it.”
Reviews on Wallace so far have been good. He stays regularly after practices for catching drills, and there is a belief he can be the deep threat the Vikings have desperately sought since Randy Moss was traded in 2005.
“I want Wallace to make plays,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “If he makes plays, he does the things we think he can do, he works hard in practice - he sets an example in his actions in terms of the way he approaches preparation - then that’s leadership.
“What guys say is very meaningless to me; it’s obviously what they do.”
Wallace doesn’t deny that perhaps he concerned himself too much in Miami with his stats. He vows that will be different in Minnesota.
“Always remember that we have one goal, and everybody out there wants to win,” Wallace said. “So it might not be catching 100 or 200 yards or a touchdown; it might be (running back) Adrian (Peterson) going for 250 (yards) or (wide receiver Charles Johnson) going for 200 yards or (tight end) Kyle (Rudolph), or whoever - just being happy for those guys and knowing that we all want (to win).”
Wallace said that’s all part of being a better leader. He said he has gotten a “bad rap” but that he’s “a nice guy.” Nevertheless, he said he has “got to be a better person.”
Wallace turns 29 on Saturday and is Minnesota’s oldest wide receiver. The team’s many young receivers are hoping he can serve as a mentor.
“We have a great relationship with him,” said Jarius Wright, 25. “He has (provided advice), like what I could have done better on a route or if there was anything I could have done better. Just working with a guy like Mike Wallace has been great.”
Then again, what really will matter for Turner is whether what he does on the field is better than it was in Miami.
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