Kevin O’Connell Turns Heads, Denies Vikings Left Elite Center in the Dark

Kevin O'Connell

Getty The Vikings are approaching a crossroads with quarterback Kirk Cousins entering the final year of his contract in 2023. ESPN reporter Kevin Seifert speculated the team will need to address the position in the draft.

Something’s not adding up in Minnesota.

Former Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, who remains one of the NFL’s top centers, announced his retirement after what he claims to be an attempt by the NFL to blackball him as the NFLPA president.

The 31-year-old had the Minnesota Vikings near the top of a list of teams he would like to play for, saying he “wanted to put a bow” on his childhood after watching the Vikings growing up.

However, according to Tretter, “Minnesota never returned our call,” he told Sports Illustrated, adding that none of the seven teams his agent and him reached out to responded to his interest.

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell addressed Tretter’s retirement, making a curious statement about Tretter’s call.

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‘That’s News to Me’

JC Tretter

GettyThe Vikings never returned JC Tretter’s calls, he said in a recent Sports Illustrated article.

In an August 25 press conference, O’Connell denied that he or general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who spent two seasons in Cleveland with Tretter, had no knowledge of Tretter’s call.

“That’s a tough question to answer,” O’Connell said. “Because as far as I’m concerned, that’s news to me. I know Kwesi and myself have not had any dialogue with JC. If somebody in this building did, it didn’t make it to me — or Kwesi, for that matter. Obviously, as a former player, he in a lot of ways represents me, as well, as the NFLPA president. So I have a ton of respect for him — not only in that role, but as a player, as well.

“I know the O-Line coach in Cleveland (Bill Callahan) pretty well, and I know he’s one of the best in this league. He’s been coached up by him, and he had a lot of really good things to say about JC over his time in Cleveland. Lot of respect for the player, but unfortunately I can’t really speak to that because, like I said, I’m not aware of any of those conversations. It was news to me to hear it. I did hear it, though.”

While O’Connell denied Adofo-Mensah and he had ever been in contact with Tretter, the Vikings and other teams that need help at center not inviting Tretter in for at least a physical remains a solid piece to the possibility Tretter is being ousted by the NFL.

Garrett Bradbury has struggled in Vikings training camp. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their starting center Ryan Jensen to a potential season-ending knee injury. Even Tretter’s team of the past five seasons in Cleveland has seen two injuries at center and has yet to reach out to him.

Tretter has dealt with knee injuries over his career and was rarely an active participant in Browns practice last season. However, he remains a considerable upgrade for many teams and has not missed a game since 2017 — playing the third-most snaps of any center in the NFL in that span.

Tretter can come out of retirement at any point if a team does give him a call, but it appears he’ll remain unrostered entering the 2022 season.

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Vikings’ Options Other Than Bradbury

With Tretter out of the picture, the Vikings are considering in-house options at center if Bradbury cannot assert himself as the starting center.

Guard Chris Reed has taken reps at center throughout training camp but has yet to play the position in a regular season game. He also had snapping issues, which offers little confidence in playing him in the regular season.

Austin Schlottman has yet to allow a pressure in the preseason and is the only center to play in an NFL regular season game other than Bradbury.

Minnesota could find an opportunity to claim a center come the 53-man roster cutdown deadline on August 30, however, the quality of players available are unlikely to be capable of starting right away for the Vikings.

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