Rhett Ellison’s father says free agents leaving Vikings because of ‘toxic leadership’

Published 9:56 am Monday, March 13, 2017

By Chris Tomasson

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Rhett Ellison’s father tweeted Saturday night that the Vikings have “toxic leadership” and said Sunday that free agents are leaving because they have a better chance of winning elsewhere.

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Riki Ellison was an NFL linebacker from 1983-92 and won three Super Bowls with San Francisco. He said his son, a tight end who spent the past five years for Minnesota, signed last week with the New York Giants because he “of course” believes he has a better opportunity to win.

Ellison’s father also put up Saturday night a Facebook post in which he claimed a “mentality of physical practices” in Minnesota contributed to “hurt players on the offensive line and burn out the desire of the defense to play hard.”

Riki Ellison had tweeted Saturday night, “Exodus of their draft picks out of the Minnesota Vikings in free agency — with a new stadium, new facility — statement on toxic leadership.’’ The tweet was deleted Sunday night.

Reached by phone Sunday before the tweet was deleted, Ellison declined to say about whom he was referring. However, he said it’s noticeable how many free agents have departed since Thursday’s start of free agency.

In addition to Ellison leaving, tackle Matt Kalil, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and wide receiver Charles Johnson signed with Charlotte, punter Jeff Locke with Indianapolis and linebacker Audie Cole with Jacksonville. The Vikings, who have yet to re-sign any of their own free agents, had decided not to offer Johnson a tender as a restricted free agent before he joined the Panthers.

“Do (free agents) think this program is going in the right direction and a Super Bowl contender or are they in a position to be another start-up, starting up from scratch?’’ said Riki Ellison, chairman and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance outside Washington. “That’s why you see your veterans are leaving because they have to look at the future. They should be able to retain anybody they want.

“There is something going on, from my perspective. Why would people be leaving a brand-new facility (U.S. Bank Stadium)? They got the best facility in the world. … That’s just not a normal thing to happen.’’