EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (Dec. 27, 2006) -- Brad Childress claimed that Marcus Robinson wasn't cut because of recent criticism of the Vikings coach, instead calling the release of the team's leader in touchdown catches a matter of production and future planning.
In his first availability with the Minnesota media since Minnesota surprisingly cut Robinson on Christmas Eve with one game left in the season, Childress also insisted that he hasn't heard from his players about any possible frustration with his communication style.
The Vikings (6-9) were eliminated from playoff contention in last week's ugly 9-7 loss at Green Bay in which they had a franchise-worst three first downs. It was the low point for an offense that has struggled mightily in Childress's first season.
The passing game has been the biggest problem. Robinson -- who had 29 receptions for 381 yards and four scores in the 10 games he played in, some only briefly -- was one of the few receivers who showed an ability to get open consistently and make the tough catch in the end zone.
So why get rid of him, especially at this point?
"It's just what you see," Childress said. "It's what you put on the field. ... Put it on tape every day, and I just don't see it."
Clearly, the coach has been cold toward Robinson's reaction to injuries. The receiver hurt his hamstring in a game against Carolina on Sept. 17 and was out the following week. He banged up his lower back in a game at Seattle on Oct. 22 and missed the next three games.
Then came the surprising deactivation on Dec. 17 against the New York Jets, which Childress pinned on a hip flexor problem that had not been cited on that week's injury report. Robinson claimed he was fine, and a week later he criticized Childress in an interview published by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Though Robinson defended the offensive scheme and the play calling under Childress, he complained to the newspaper about mixed messages and a general lack of communication coming from the coach.
Childress insisted that was not the case.
"I've spoken to him as much as anyone on this football team, one-on-one, and probably twice as much," Childress said. "That's exactly the way that it's been."
When asked how often he communicates with his players, Childress avoided a specific answer.
"It's certainly not a confessional," he said. "People don't line up outside of my door for their 'once-a-week.' ... They don't have to sign a sign-up sheet. It's civil conversation. Do you talk to some more than others? Sure you do."
At the beginning of the season, Childress organized a leadership committee of veteran players to serve as a bridge between coaches and players. He meets with them each week -- and said he didn't hear "one word" about any frustration with him or his staff.
Childress stressed that he wanted to use Week 17's game against postseason-hopeful St. Louis as a tryout for several young players. That made receivers Jason Carter and Martin Nance more attractive to use in a meaningless game -- for Minnesota at least -- than Robinson, a 10-year veteran.
"I wish him the best as he goes on, and it's just a matter of getting somebody that I feel like has a chance to possibly impact this thing in the future," Childress said.
The timing of the move certainly shocked the players, but they were shy about expressing skepticism.
"I thought he was doing a great job when he had the opportunity," running back Chester Taylor said. "But I don't know the whole situation about that."
In November, cornerback Antoine Winfield met with Childress after criticizing the offense for a lack of creativity and production following a 9-3 loss to San Francisco, and the eight-year veteran was also prompted to address the team about those comments.
On Dec. 27, Winfield was asked if he thought the team's communication lines were open.
"Somewhat. We all know coach Childress is the leader. It's his first year, and everyone's still trying to get to know him," Winfield said. "Sometimes he has that look on his face where you don't know if he's serious, if he's joking, because you rarely see him smile. But we'll all grow on each other, the more time we spend with each other."