Brock Lesnar returned to the UFC to fight Mark Hunt this weekend, which was as good of a reason as any to dredge up an old, apparently apocryphal story from Lesnar’s brief NFL days. Vikings.com used the fight as a peg to recall a Nate Burleson story about how, when Lesnar was trying out for the Vikings, he suplexed an opponent who cheapshotted QB Daunte Culpepper. This was quickly picked up by The Score, For The Win, ESPN, NESN, and Minnesota’s CBS affiliate.
This isn’t the first time this specific story has made the media go-round. Burleson originally told it on NFL Network’s Total Access last summer, where it made its way to Reddit and eventually Larry Brown Sports and SB Nation’s Chiefs blog. But while it is an undoubtedly fun story, based upon the available evidence, it is almost undoubtedly untrue.
Here is Burleson’s appearance on Total Access, and here’s the transcript:
Q: What’s the nastiest thing you’ve ever seen at training camp?
Burleson: You remember Brock Lesnar, WWE? He came out, and somebody cheap-shotted Daunte Culpepper late, and Brock was like “who did it?” The next play he went and suplexed the guy. Different type of nasty, but he picked up a grown man after the play, it was a royal rumble, Minnesota versus Kansas City in Mankato during training camp. That was a nasty suplex on the football field.
The first clue that this never happened is that Burleson’s story makes no sense. Lesnar left the WWE in 2004 to try out with the Vikings at defensive end, meaning he was on the other side of the ball from Culpepper. For Lesnar to suplex an opponent who cheap-shotted Culpepper on the very next play, either Culpepper was playing on defense, Lesnar was playing on offense, or the Vikings turned the ball over when Culpepper was cheap-shotted and the player who cheap-shotted him was playing both ways.
Though none of those things are particularly likely, we might be able to excuse the positional weirdness by the fact that it was a pre-preseason scrimmage, where the Vikings and Chiefs were undoubtedly experimenting. But Lesnar’s supposed suplex wasn’t captured by any of the media at the scrimmage. For instance, Larry Brown Sports says this is video of the suplex in question:
But this video doesn’t show a suplex, it shows Lesnar getting it worse than he gives, and involves Chiefs running back Jonathan Smith and offensive lineman Jonathan Ingram, two players who wouldn’t have been on the field along with Culpepper.
And while the contemporary accounts describe a fiery and fight-filled joint-practice and scrimmage—in fact, the biggest cheap shot of the day seemed to be when Lesnar tackled Chiefs QB Damon Huard during morning drills, knocking him out of the scrimmage and rankling plenty of Chiefs players—none of them describe anything remotely similar to what Burleson said happened.
The Associated Press, Minnesota Star-Tribune, Pierre (South Dakota) Capital-Journal, and Kansas City Star all had reporters at the practice, and none of them mention anything out of the ordinary happening with Lesnar besides his hits on Huard and Smith. In fact, none of the stories even mention Culpepper, and I can find no evidence that—coming off a Pro Bowl season—he even played in a meaningless scrimmage a month before the season began.
Maybe the story is true, and Burleson witnessed something that the TV cameras and numerous reporters didn’t see, and that no players on either team talked to the media about it afterwards. And even if it isn’t, it’s a good fun story that doesn’t have bearing on anything. Either way, it’s a good reminder that memory is fallible and that the media loves pouncing on fun stories with little-to-no fact checking, ourselves sometimes included.