Sid Hartman: Wilf makes it known he's not cutting back

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 8, 2010 - 8:51 AM

The Vikings owner wants fans to know that Artis Hicks and Chester Taylor didn't exit because of cost-cutting.

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Vikings owner Zygi Wilf

Zygi Wilf, owner of the Vikings, wanted to make it clear that the loss of running back Chester Taylor and offensive lineman Artis Hicks in free agency had nothing to do with any effort to cut down spending on players to make this team a winner.

"Our actions of the last several years have spoken larger than words," said Wilf, speaking Sunday about the team publicly for the first time since the loss to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game. "We spend when it's appropriate.

"I work with my guys. When we want somebody, we go after them; that's the way we've been doing it, and we'll continue to do so when the time comes. When the opportunity arises and when the time comes, we will go out and get that person, but right now we're really working on the draft."

Looking to the past season, Wilf said: "It was a great season, and getting close, we're making ourselves that much hungrier to get back there and go for it again. We have the same team coming back, and we've got good guys, so we're going to give it a run, we're going to defend our division and we're going to move on."

As for quarterback Brett Favre returning, Wilf said: "We'll do everything to get him back, and that's pretty much what you said in your article."

Need stadium

Wilf said he is hopeful that the Legislature will find a way to get a Vikings stadium bill passed this year.

"I feel like we're coming into what's really needed to get this thing done, from the standpoint of the type of stadium that we want and the location that we want, and we're right now working on the finance package," Wilf said. "I think there's a way to get this thing done this year, so I'm excited on that front.

"I think there's a lot of enthusiasm for our team, and the importance that our team has for everybody in Minnesota makes it something that we have to deal with, and I think we're getting there."

Wilf said it's important to have an indoor stadium.

"I think we're making some progress," he said. "I think everybody realizes that we need to get something done, not just for the football, for the Vikings, but we need to have a facility that can really attract all those events that the great cities of America are getting. We should be able to get the Final Four, we should get the Super Bowl, and we should get things like Indy is getting. Why shouldn't we get them in Minnesota?"

Wilf said he is excited about getting back to the NFC Championship Game next year, and this time winning and making it to the Super Bowl.

"I'm looking forward to the next season for our team and looking forward down the road to get a stadium built that everybody can be proud of," he said.

Wilf called the Vikings taking over the Twins ticket office and expanding the Vikings ticket office into a bigger lounge a "Band-aid." He also said he was looking forward to watching the Twins open their new stadium next month.

Mbakwe in Miami

Trevor Mbakwe, who has practiced with the Gophers basketball team all season but wasn't permitted to play because of legal problems, is in Miami, where his case might be tried this month or, more likely, could be dropped. Mbakwe is accused of felony assault while a member of the Miami Dade Junior College team last season.

Also on the legal front, the Jimmy Williams lawsuit against the University of Minnesota, in which Williams claims he quit his assistant coaching job with Oklahoma State in 2007 because he was convinced he was going to be hired as an assistant for Tubby Smith, is scheduled to go to trial May 13, according to Williams' attorney, Richard Hunegs.

Jottings

Vikings Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson had successful shoulder surgery after the Pro Bowl, according to coach Brad Childress. Hutchinson played most of the season despite a bad shoulder, but it didn't seem to hurt his performance. Tom West of the Vikings public relations department noted that Hutchinson played a big part in the Vikings not giving up a sack in two games against the Packers, who finished with the second-rated defense in the NFL. ... E.J. Henderson, the Vikings standout linebacker who broke his leg Dec. 6 at Arizona, won the team's Ed Block Courage Award that is selected by Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman. Henderson recently visited Children's Hospital in Baltimore.

When participants for the NCAA men's indoor track and field championships are announced Monday, Gophers coach Steve Plasencia believes as many as 10 of his athletes could be invited. Three are already automatically qualified: Aaron Studt in shot put, R.J. McGinnis in the heptathlon and Ben Blankenship, who set a school record in the mile Saturday. Plasencia also said that a number of Gophers are on the bubble to be chosen but could participate: Matt Fisher, high jump; Chris Rombough, 3,000 meters; Brock Spandl, heptathlon; Jack Szmanda, heptathlon; and the men's distance medley relay of Rombough, Andy Richardson, Logan Stroman and Harun Abda.

Anthony Tucker, the former Minnetonka High School basketball standout who left Iowa this season as a sophomore, is now going to enroll at Division II Winona State.

Lou Nanne Jr., grandson of former North Stars player, coach and general manager, is a member of Edina's state tournament hockey team.

Northeastern's Matt Janning, who played at Watertown-Mayer High School, was named first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association for the second year in a row. Janning was fifth in the conference in scoring (15.1 points per game) and reached double figures in 26 of 30 games. He is one of only two players in Northeastern history to compile at least 1,500 points (1,781), 500 rebounds (519) and 300 assists (342) in a career. Northeastern was the runner-up in the regular season in the conference and lost to William & Mary in the conference tournament semifinals Sunday.

Minneapolis native and U.S. Olympian Zach Parise scored his 29th and 30th goals in New Jersey's loss to Calgary on Friday night and now has 30 goals and 35 assists. ... Former Gophers defenseman Paul Martin, who has been out since Oct. 24 because of an arm injury that also kept him out of the Olympics, is expected to hopefully return to the Devils lineup this week. ... Spring Lake Park native David Backes has a goal and two assists in three games back from the Olympics, giving him 14 goals and 24 assists in 62 games with St. Louis, while fellow Olympian and former Gopher Erik Johnson has six goals and 24 assists in 63 games for the Blues.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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