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Vikings owner Zygi Wilf

McKenna Ewen, Star Tribune

Wilf reaffirms desire for open-air stadium

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • December 21, 2010 - 1:15 AM

Get ready for more outdoor Vikings games like the one Monday night if Zygi Wilf has his way.

The Vikings owner reiterated Monday that he is completely opposed to a stadium with a roof of any kind, including a retractable one.

"Football should be played outdoors," Wilf said before the 40-14 loss to the Bears, "and for the Vikings in the past, the weather has given the Vikings a big advantage."

Wilf has talked in the past about the glory of the Bud Grant-coached Vikings and the success the team had going to four Super Bowls, with the team taking advantage of the bad weather teams were forced to play in when they came to Metropolitan Stadium.

The owner pointed out not only the extra cost of building a domed stadium, but the operating costs to run such a stadium are a lot more expensive than an open-air building.

A covered stadium would cost a minimum of $200 million more than an open-air one, according to Wilf. A great fan of the New York Giants in his youth, Wilf pointed out how successful the Giants have been from an attendance standpoint and also how successful the team -- the winner of three Super Bowls -- has been in the past playing outside.

In meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday, Wilf also expressed his thoughts about an open-air stadium to him.

It would be interesting to see how the fans who attended Monday night's game at TCF Bank Stadium would react to being outdoors for all the games rather than in the comforts of a dome.

Offers turned down

With the Metrodome unavailable for games against the Giants and the Bears, the Wilfs could have gained financially had they agreed to play the Giants in New York and the Bears in Chicago.

Instead, the Vikings-Giants game was moved to Detroit, and Monday's home finale was played in the Gophers' new stadium. Vikings ownership wanted to play both games in the Twin Cities, but TCF Bank Stadium couldn't be prepared in time for the Giants game after the Metrodome roof collapsed Dec. 12.

Speaking of finances, since the NFL is operating without a salary cap this year, the Vikings have a player payroll of $150 million, whereas the cap figure was $128 million when it was enforced in 2009.

Last look

For those fans who braved the elements Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium, they might have looked at many players in their final games in Vikings uniforms.

The free-agency status of many NFL players for 2011 will hinge on the next collective bargaining agreement between players and owners.

The contracts of a lot of veteran Vikings are up, so players such as linebacker Ben Leber, defensive tackle Pat Williams and kicker Ryan Longwell all figure to be free agents -- as does quarterback Brett Favre, although he has said he is retiring.

In the old collective bargaining agreement, players with at least four years of service time could become unrestricted free agents. That might or might not be the case in the future. If that standard remains, then the list of Vikings who could become free agents includes wide receiver Sidney Rice; linebacker Chad Greenway; defensive linemen Ray Edwards, Fred Evans and Brian Robison; offensive lineman Ryan Cook; fullback Naufahu Tahi and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. All those players are five-year veterans except Rice and Robison, who are finishing their fourth years.

Jottings

Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier was a rookie cornerback with the Bears the last time Chicago played outdoors at Minnesota. It was Oct. 4, 1981, at Met Stadium, and the Vikings won 24-21.

Before Monday, the Vikings played two games on the University of Minnesota campus, both at Memorial Stadium. The only other regular-season game came when the Vikings beat Green Bay 19-7 on Oct. 5, 1969. Joe Kapp was the starting quarterback for the Vikings opposite the Packers' Bart Starr. Dave Osborn scored on a 3-yard run in the second quarter, and Fred Cox kicked four field goals; both Osborn and Cox were honored as members of the 50 Greatest Vikings team, which was revealed Sunday in celebration of the team's 50th season. The Vikings also beat New England 17-10 in a preseason game at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 8, 1971, played for the benefit of a charity. Gary Cuozzo was the starting quarterback for the Vikings in that game.

The Vikings could have two choices in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds of this year's draft. They already have two fifth-round picks, getting the Giants' pick in the trade that sent quarterback Sage Rogenfels to New York. The extra picks could come at the end of the sixth and seventh rounds for running back Chester Taylor from Chicago and Artis Hicks from Washington since both signed as free agents.

Taylor, whose absence has been felt by the Vikings this season because of his great blocking and pass catching on third down, is on pace for one of his least productive NFL seasons since he was a rookie with Baltimore in 2001. He is averaging 1.9 yards per carry, gaining 252 yards on 105 carries, and he has only 20 catches for 139 yards. In comparison, he had 94 carries for 338 yards and 44 receptions for 389 yards in 2009 with the Vikings; he ran for 1,216 yards with the Vikings in 2006, the year before Adrian Peterson arrived. Taylor signed a four-year contract for $12.5 million with Chicago, a figure the Vikings wouldn't meet.

Vikings linebacker and special teams standout Heath Farwell had a reunion with Hall of Fame offensive lineman Ron Yary at the Vikings' 50th anniversary celebration Sunday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

"I met him back in high school and he was actually doing some photography stuff for my high school football team and I got to know him," Farwell said. "He became pretty good friends with me. When I signed up here, he kind of guided me on things to do and things you don't do. We've remained friends, and he's a guy I respect as a player and as a person."

Bears offensive coordinator and former Rams head coach Mike Martz was a member of Joe Salem's Gophers coaching staff in 1982. Incidentally, Salem has two sons as assistant coaches on teams involved in bowl games. Brad Salem is the running backs coach for Big Ten co-champion Michigan State, which is playing Alabama in the Capital One Bowl. Tim Salem is the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach for Central Florida, coached by former Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary. UCF is playing Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.

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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