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Zulgad: Here’s why George Iloka should continue to wear No. 28

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings were pretty much maxed out when it came to available jersey numbers by the time George Iloka signed last Wednesday. Likely because Iloka isn’t any old player off the street — he’s a respected veteran safety who was released by the Bengals for salary-cap reasons — the Vikings decided to give him No. 28 and not a duplicate number of a player on offense.

This made Iloka the first Vikings player to wear No. 28 since Adrian Peterson was let go in 2017. The decision to give out the number angered some Vikings fans, and Iloka made it clear he likely would be wearing a different number when the regular season opens on Sept. 9.

The Vikings and Iloka, however, should be in no hurry for him to surrender the number and, in fact, he should continue to wear it for his entire stay in Minnesota.

This is meant as no disrespect to Peterson.

Now playing for his third team in two seasons, Peterson established himself as the best running back in Vikings history during his 10 seasons with Minnesota. He still holds the NFL single-game rushing record with 296 yards in a 2007 victory over San Diego, and his 2,097-yard rushing season in 2012 remains the second best in NFL history to Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 yards in 1984. That output was even more remarkable because it happened the season after Peterson tore up his knee during a Christmas Eve game.

Peterson had his issues when it came to pass protection, catching the ball and fumbling but his pure running ability will land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day.

Still, he doesn’t deserve to have his number taken out of circulation for one simple reason. If the Vikings aren’t going to retire No. 84 for Randy Moss there is no reason to retire No. 28 for Peterson. I’d look at retiring both but it’s understandable that taking numbers out of circulation isn’t an easy thing for NFL teams since there are so many roster spots to be filled and all require players to be issued numbers.

The Vikings, who began as an expansion franchise in 1961, have retired six numbers in their history. This includes the No. 10 for quarterback Fran Tarkenton; No. 88 for defensive tackle Alan Page; No. 70 for defensive end Jim Marshall; No. 77 for offensive tackle Korey Stringer; No. 53 for center Mick Tingelhoff; and No. 80 for wide receiver Cris Carter. Stringer, of course, is a special case because he passed away during training camp in 2001.

Tarkenton, Page, Tingelhoff and Carter are four of the 12 former players who made their biggest marks in the NFL with the Vikings and are in the Hall of Fame.

Defensive end Chris Doleman (No. 56); defensive tackle John Randle (No. 93); guard Randall McDaniel (No. 64); offensive tackles Ron Yary (No. 73) and Gary Zimmerman (No. 65); defensive end Carl Eller (No. 81); and safety Paul Krause (No. 22) are among the former Vikings greats who are in Canton but whose jersey numbers are not retired.

Moss, who was inducted into the Hall this summer, also is on this list. Moss and all the above listed players have been inducted into the Vikings’ Ring of Honor, but obviously having your number retired is the ultimate honor a franchise can bestow on a player.

Moss, whom the Vikings selected with the 21st pick in the first round of the 1998 draft, is more deserving of having his jersey retired than Peterson. Matthew Coller wrote a great piece detailing the history of No. 84 for the Vikings.

The first Vikings wide receiver to wear that number after Moss was 2007 fifth-round pick Aundrae Allison. Since then it has bounced around to a variety of players, including veteran Michael Jenkins and 2013 first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson. Last season, it was issued to sixth-round tight end Bucky Hodges, who was cut just before the season. This summer, undrafted rookie wide receiver Chad Beebe is wearing Moss’ old number.

As great of runner as Peterson was in his prime, he did not change the NFL or lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl. His 11,747 rushing yards are the most in franchise history but he was 1-4 in playoff games. He also was long a liability in pass protection and thus was replaced on third down at times.

The difference between Peterson and Moss was that Moss made plays few had seen before he arrived. His impact on the game and the entire NFL — not just the Vikings — was obvious from the first day he stepped on the field as a rookie in 1998. Don’t believe it? Go back and watch his Monday night performance at Lambeau Field when he caught five passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Or how about his three catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns in a Thanksgiving Day victory in Dallas?

Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf used his first three picks in the 1999 draft on defensive backs 5-foot-11 or taller for the purpose of trying to cover Moss.

Moss’ ability to catch anything thrown near him took the Vikings from being a franchise with an aging fan base that had had its final home game of the 1997 season blacked out to being the team that everyone wanted to see. Suddenly, the Metrodome was sold out and an entire new group of young fans couldn’t wait to watch Moss as he played a huge role in the Vikings going 15-1 during his rookie season. Moss made the Vikings the cool team in town.

Moss played his first seven seasons with the Vikings before being dealt to the Raiders. He returned for four forgettable games in 2010 before coach Brad Childress jettisoned him. Moss’ 587 receptions as a Viking rank second in team history to Carter’s 1,004, but Carter played here from 1990 to 2001. The Vikings went 4-4 with Moss in the postseason, making two NFC title games, but never getting to the Super Bowl.

Maybe that is why the Vikings don’t feel it necessary to retire his number. Perhaps, they feel the same way about Peterson.

Whatever the reason, as long as guys like Beebe are allowed to wear No. 84, there is no reason for Iloka to give up the No. 28.

The post Zulgad: Here’s why George Iloka should continue to wear No. 28 appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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