Give the Vikings ownership credit: They are doing everything it seems possible to win. They have a deal with Arden Hills on a proposed new Vikings stadium site that awaits state approval. In fact, the historic State government shutdown has hurt their cause. Governor Mark Dayton called their stadium proposal “sloppy.” They are two years removed from the NFC Championship game overtime loss to New Orleans when Brett Favre was the quarterback, and last year they fired Brad Childress after a 3-7 start.
Having the roof collapse at their home stadium, the Mall of America Field at the Metrodome, after a record snowstorm, the Vikings, you might say, have patched things up. Leslie Frazier as interim head coach was 3-3; he, like everybody else, has endured the four months-plus NFL lockout where coaches had no contact, no communication, no meetings, no film study and no practices with players.
But after a week of being back in business, the NFL Vikings are in Mankato for the 46th straight year. Gone is Favre, Sidney Rice, Ray Edwards, Pat Williams, Madieu Williams and others. Donovan McNabb, one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks of the last 10 years, is the 2011 starting Vikings quarterback.
When Head Coach Frazier said recently that number-one pick quarterback Christian Ponder was his starting quarterback, I said to myself, “Is he kidding us?” After I personally saw Ponder work out for two days with my son Larry, Jr. at the U of M, I was not impressed. I realize now that Frazier might be pretty good at poker.
McNabb has thrown for 36,000 yards and 230 touchdowns, and his QB rating is 85.7. Last year was the worst of his career, his first year in Washington. He agreed to a restructured two-year contract after being traded from Washington for two sixth-round draft picks. The Vikings have also signed Michael Jenkins from Atlanta at wide receiver.
So like it or not, the show must go on and the Vikings believe they are ready for the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Detroit Lions in the NFC North. The flurry of activity that has highlighted the return of football has been unprecedented. On paper, the Philadelphia Eagles are the team to beat. They are loaded; New England, New York Jets, Atlanta and Green Bay have all reloaded.
That’s what makes the NFL special, unlike Major League Baseball and the NBA where they play so many games. The NFL is week to week — one game at a time it’s all on the line: 16 dress rehearsals where chemistry and potential are measured. Where reviews don’t mean as much as wins. It’s a bottom line business: Did you get it done?
Fitz Notes & Quotes
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL and re-certified NFLPA is off to a flying start. The late Gene Upshaw would be proud of the job done by DeMaurice Smith and the NFL players. Why? Because Smith refused to allow the NFL owners to bust a great partnership. The NFL’s 32 teams and 1,900 players are still partners. That pie is still being split; that was not the owners’ intent.
The owners get 52 percent to the players 48 percent, but the 32 teams have to spend 95-98 percent of the salary cap money. Remember, the cap was $120 million per team in 2009 and that is what it is in 2011.
One of my longtime legal friends said the re certifying of the NFLPA last week proves that the case before Judge Nelson here in Minnesota was a “sham.” He went on to say they the players were wrong and the owners were right: that the players lied about their position.
I respectfully disagree: The NFL players understood the point that I made earlier — to best fight the billionaire owners and not allow them to bust the partnership between the owners and players, the players had to make a strong case in court that the owners violated federal law.
Even though the owners won later on appeal before the three-judge panel in St. Louis that leans to the right, it kept the players in the fight; and the owners knew they had to bargain on good faith with the players.
The United Football League (UFL) after two years is still on hold. The five-team professional football league’s third season is in jeopardy. Dennis Green, former Vikings and Arizona Cardinals head coach, is general manger/head coach of the Sacramento Mountain Lions. Maybe the UFL owners are not committed.
At the Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala last Sunday at the St. Paul RiverCentre in which they raised $7.2 million, former President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker. Clinton was profound and full of impact when he said, “Creativity and ability are evenly distributed throughout the world; opportunity is not.”
At the Starkey Foundation Golf Tournament at Olympic Hills CC in Eden Prairie, the team headed by Brian Felsen of 612-Clothing shot -17. I was a part of that team; we finished second in the tournament.
Larry Fitzgerald Jr., Pro Bowl receiver of the Arizona Cardinals, is featured on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated — it’s his third cover for SI.
Former Gopher star quarterback Ricky Foggy is the head football coach at Park Center.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.
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