Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson was seen collecting change in the parking garage of the Mall of America on Wednesday. Witnesses say the 15-year veteran was sitting on the floor of the concrete lot near the entrance into the mall, with his Vikings helmet overturned, taking any and everything the mall goers would discard.

Though Johnson will make $1.2 million this season, the 38-year-old says retirement is near and if his employer won’t cough up the dough, he’ll go out and earn it himself.

“I know an annual salary of a million dollars sounds like a lot to the average person, but I’ve grown accustomed to living the lifestyle of a superstar.” Johnson said after practice on Thursday. “I’m a two-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champ. A guy like me doesn’t own just one home and let’s just say I don’t drive a Honda Accord.”

Johnson signed as a backup in 2005, a four-year $6 million deal, respectable for a second-stringer, but not an NFL starter. However, the Vikings front office has failed to give Johnson a raise since he was thrust into the starter’s role midway through the 2005 season when Daunte Culpepper went down with a season-ending injury.

“There are 36 other quarterbacks in the NFL will be getting a bigger paycheck than I will during the 2006 season,” said Johnson. “Even backups are getting paid more than me.  Heck, Latrell Sprewell couldn’t even feed his family on $7 million. I’m not even making close a quarter of that.”

Though he can not personally give his quarterback a raise, Vikings head coach Brad Childress has given Johnson the best gift any Vikings player could ask for.

“Reluctantly, I’m going to give him my ticket for this year’s Love Boat cruise on Lake Minnetonka.”

heckler editorial staff