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Paul Woody: Tice's priorities stand out in NFL

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Tice's priorities stand out in NFL

PAUL WOODY

POINT OF VIEW

Friday, December 31, 2004

Mike Tice takes a, "What, me worry?" attitude about the tight race his Minnesota Vikings are in for an NFC playoff spot.

Tice, after all, already has a championship ring. He got it while coaching his son's youth-league football team.

Fathers often coach their sons' teams, so there's nothing unusual about Tice doing that.

Except for this. Tice coached his son's team while he was an assistant, then the head coach of the Vikings.

Now that's unusual.

Most coaches, college as well as professional, find it difficult to leave the practice facility long enough to have dinner with their families, much less coach one of their sons during the NFL season. Tice refused to let his workload at the office, where an 80-hour week is the norm, deter him.

"You find time for your family," Tice said. "I remember when I first got into coaching, a guy that I admire very much, Tom Olivadotti, who had been the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins and was linebackers coach here, told me his son was playing at Purdue, and he hadn't seen many of his games.

"He told me that if he had it to do over again, he'd see as many as he could. That really stuck with me."

Statements and ideas often stick with people. What often does not happen is that people act on ideas and statements that they deem important.

Compromise and rationalization are frequent in life.

"I saw about every one of my son's games because I was coaching him," Tice said. "I was able to coach Nate's basketball, football and baseball teams all the way through the eighth grade.

"I've been very blessed and fortunate to be able to help raise my son as far as an athlete's concerned. He's in high school now, he plays on the JV teams, so I do not have the ability to do anything but go watch. That's probably a good thing."

Tice is a typical NFL coach in a number of ways. He's never down, no matter how badly his team has played, no matter how dire the situation seems. His players feed off his energy, which shows on the Vikings' offense, but, this season at least, doesn't always show as much with the defense.

Tice is an atypical NFL head coach when it comes to salary.

Of course, that depends on who is doing the comparing.

Tice earned $750,000 this season. He'll get a raise to $1 million next season, and still will be at the bottom rung of the NFL head coaches' pay scale.

Tice does not see his salary cup as half-empty.

"A million dollars seems pretty good to a guy whose father, even in his best days, never made more than $30,000," Tice said.

No one should argue with that. But would Tice the player, who spent 14 seasons as an NFL tight end, argue with Tice the coach?

Maybe not.

Tice played for the Washington Redskins in 1989, then was cut during the 1990 preseason. Tice moved from Seattle, where he had a nice career, to play for Washington, where he was one cog on a 10-6 team that did not make the playoffs.

Then, at the end of the 1990 training camp, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs told Tice he was done.

Tice had moved all the way from Seattle to play for the Redskins, and he came with the idea that he might be able to play a significant role in the offense.

Instead, he was shown the door. He didn't take it personally.

"I told Coach Gibbs that I left there a better player than I was when I got there," Tice said. "That's a significant thing to say when you're 30 years old."

That's a significant thing for a player, who has just been fired, to say at any age.

Tice says and does many significant things. Others might benefit from taking note of them.

Contact Paul Woody at (804) 649-6444 orpwoody@timesdispatch.com

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