Berger said he’ll retire from Vikings, but Rudolph says he’s heard it before
MINNEAPOLIS — After 13 years, Vikings offensive lineman Joe Berger expects to play in his final regular-season game on Sunday.
Berger said last June that 2017 likely would be his final NFL season. He hasn’t changed his tune entering the game at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Chicago Bears.
“That’s the way I’m thinking about it,” Berger told the Pioneer Press on Friday. “To me, this is it. Things change and stuff comes up. I’m not signing retirement papers as soon as I walk out of here, but’s that’s kind of the way I see it. I’m 35 years old. It’s been fun, but it’s time for the young kids to do it.”
Berger said he wants to go out the way linebacker Chad Greenway did last season when he retired after 11 years.
There is one difference. Greenway departed following a season in which the Vikings didn’t make the postseason. Berger still has a playoff run ahead of him, with the possibility that Minnesota (12-3) could play in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I want the opportunity to be like Chad last year, to be able to walk away on his own,” said Berger, who has a salary-cap number of $2.1 million in the final year of his contract. “And if you can walk away on your own after a Super Bowl win, that’s hard to beat.”
Sunday’s game will be Berger’s first start at center since Nov. 24, 2016 at Detroit. Berger started the first 15 games this season at right guard but will move to center to replace rookie Pat Elflein, who is out with a shoulder injury.
Berger’s primary NFL position has been at center, including 27 straight starts at that spot from the beginning of 2015 to that Detroit game last year.
“It’ll be a fun change-up,” Berger said of going back to his old position. “But wherever they need me to be, that’s where I’ll play.”
Berger was a mechanical engineering major at Michigan Tech. After he retires, he will consider a career in that field but is in no hurry.
“I’ll take some time and relax,” he said. “I think I’ve afforded myself that with the 13-year career I’ve had. But then I’ll figure it out. Mechanical engineering or something like that would be fun.”
Berger isn’t the only Vikings player who could be retiring after the season. Cornerback Terence Newman is 39, but wouldn’t speculate Friday on his future.
“When I’m done, nobody will know it,” Newman said. “I’ll be off into the sunset.”
As for Berger, tight end Kyle Rudolph isn’t convinced he will be done after the season. Berger has talked before about stepping away, though this is the most serious he’s been about it.
“We’ll have a locker for him in Eagan,” Rudolph said of the team’s new training facility scheduled to open in March. “I’ve been hearing (about Berger’s retirement) every year. I don’t believe him. He’s playing at as high of a level as he ever has in his career.”
Rudolph, though, doesn’t doubt that Berger would step away if the Vikings win the Super Bowl.
“That would probably make things a lot easier to decide,” Rudolph said with a laugh. “I might retire if we win the Super Bowl.”