Last week, Eric Kendricks was announced as the Vikings Community Man of the Year and nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
The All-Pro linebacker has been a tireless champion for social justice in recent months, and has also helped shine a light on giving people a second chance.
He has also shared his story behind the scenes with Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated, who published an extended piece on Kendricks and the organization's efforts on Friday morning.
Bishop chatted with Kendricks multiple times throughout the 2020 season, including after a Week 1 loss to the Packers. The Vikings honored George Floyd and his family before the game, as the Gjallarhorn was silent for the first time.
After clashing with the Packers that first Sunday, losing 43–34 in a defeat that portended a bumpy start to an uneven season, Kendricks started to understand the dichotomy that would define his fall. "I'm not too particular on being in the spotlight. I never wanted to have a big voice in all this. Really," he said in the first of several fall phone calls with SI.
"I knew I wanted to do something; I knew we had to. It was eating me up inside. And I knew that with George Floyd happening right here, in our city, I had to stand up."
Bishop also explained the work of the Vikings Social Justice Committee, on which Kendricks is a key figure. The writer highlighted the committee's most-recent call earlier this month.
Team employees kicked off the call with a recap: $910,000 of the $1 million had been distributed over the course of the season to 19 organizations, with the grants ranging from $5,000 to $250K. The money went to street artists, school supplies, students, scholarships, the grilled cheese aficionados [at All Square] and [Alan] Page's education group. Players offered suggestions for the remaining 90 grand, recommending organizations that advocate for abused women, or single mothers, or foster children. Zygi Wilf addressed the future, telling the players that "we're committed to doing this long-term" and "social justice is a lifetime commitment."
Eventually, [Vikings General Manager Rick] Spielman asked Kendricks whether he believed the organization was helping in every possible way. The linebacker sat in front of white brick walls, nearby what appeared to be a roaring fireplace. "I feel good," he said in response. "I'm learning more every day."
Bishop's entire piece on Kendricks and the Vikings can be found here.
Graff breaks down potential Vikings playoff scenarios
It's no secret that Sunday's game between the Vikings and Bears is essentially a must-win game for each 6-7 team, as a loss likely drops playoff hopes to a low chance.
How will the final three games play out for the Vikings? Chad Graff of The Athletic recently broke down a handful of scenarios, most of which involve the Cardinals, who are 7-6 and currently hold the final NFC Wild Card spot.
Here's a quick look at each team's remaining schedule:
Minnesota: vs. Chicago, at New Orleans and at Detroit
Arizona: vs. Philadelphia, vs. San Francisco, at Los Angeles Rams
Graff noted that if the Cardinals win out, they are in. But if Arizona slips up once and Minnesota goes 3-0, the Vikings would be in.
if both teams finish 9-7, the Vikings would win the common-games tiebreaker over the Cardinals thanks to their win over the Lions in Week 17. And with the Vikings win over the Bears in Week 15, every other NFC team behind them in the Wild Card mix would have at least eight losses and be unable to reach 9-7.
And what if the Vikings go 2-1 to close out the season 8-8? Graff said a path still exists, but help would be necessary.
The Vikings are in if the Cardinals close the season 1-2 or worse, one of the Vikings two wins comes over the Lions in Week 17 and no one catches Minnesota from behind.
If the Vikings went 2-1 with a loss to the Lions, and the Cardinals finished 1-2, the tiebreaker would come down to strength of victory, which is still up in the air, though the Cardinals hold a strong lead in that category. So that Week 17 game against the Lions could still be awfully important.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
Graff wrote that the scenario explained above — the Vikings going 2-1 and the Cardinals finishing 1-2 — is the most-likely scenario he believes will happen.
It's difficult to imagine the Vikings finishing 3-0 given their recent struggles, but it's perfectly conceivable that they'd beat the Bears and Lions and lose to the Saints, the Cardinals lose to the Rams and also stumble against either the Eagles or 49ers, and neither San Francisco nor the NFC East teams can string enough wins together to make one of those longshot scenarios come true. In that case, the Vikings would get in.
Graff noted that if the Vikings go 1-2, they are highly unlikely to make the playoffs. And they have no chance if they finish 0-3, which would put them at 6-10.
And with three games to go, Graff said that Vikings fans will be fans of the Eagles, 49ers and Rams in the coming weeks.
Just know you'll probably be rooting against the Cardinals each week if you want the Vikings to get into the playoffs.
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