Jack Del Rio wanted some stability in his professional football career, and the Minnesota linebacker believes he's found it with the Vikings.
Minnesota is the fourth stop for Del Rio, who will face one of his former teams today when the Vikings host Dallas in a 3 p.m. contest at the Metrodome.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Del Rio said several Cowboys remain his friends from the three years he played in Dallas. Owner Jerry Jones, however, is not on Del Rio's Christmas card list.
Del Rio said he's still bitter over the way Jones treated him after the 1990 season. Del Rio recorded 104 tackles for the Cowboys that year, despite playing on an injured knee which required surgery after the season.
"The knee would get all puffy every week and I'd be limping around until Sunday," Del Rio said. "I fought through it and took one for the team. Then I turned around and what was my reward?
Jerry Jones gave me a contract that would pay me only half of the money if I got hurt. " Not only did Del Rio not get injured in 1991, he led the Cowboys in tackles with 130 stops. But the former All-American at Southern Cal who was drafted by New Orleans in 1985, traded to Kansas City in 1988 and claimed off waivers by Dallas when the Chiefs waived him in 1989, signed with the Vikings in 1992 under the old Plan B free agency system.
"I have a lot of respect for Jerry Jones as a businessman. He won a Super Bowl in four years and kept his bottom dollar down," Del Rio said. "But I think you can accomplish things without stomping on people, without degrading people and without treating people unfairly.
"He makes a nice profit. But is he a good people person? I don't think so. He's not like I want to be. " Del Rio played under six head coaches and seven defensive coordinators in his first eight NFL seasons. Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson didn't protect him from the Cowboys' Plan B roster because Johnson questioned Del Rio's pass coverage ability.
Del Rio, who intercepted three passes last week against Detroit and led the Vikings in tackles last season with 153, said "maybe I didn't fit into (Dallas') scheme. But I fit into the scheme here. " The Minnesota middle linebacker said he felt no bitterness or hurt when he watched the Cowboys win last season's Super Bowl, with rookie Robert Jones starting at his middle linebacker position.
"I've never been a guy who had to have somebody else fail for me to feel successful," Del Rio said. "I developed a lot of friendships in Dallas and I was really proud of those guys. "
From Pharmacy to Football Minnesota went to a drug store in Columbus, Ohio, to find the man the Vikings will start at running back against the Cowboys. Scottie Graham was a seventh-round pick out of Ohio State last year by Pittsburgh. Cut by the Steelers and waived by the Jets during this season's training camp, the 5-9, 215-pound Graham was working at the Linden Avenue Pharmacy and preparing for graduate school at Ohio State when the Vikings called and offered him a spot on their practice squad.