NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was here for the Vikings’ first regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium, and I had the opportunity to spend some time with him to talk about Vikings, the stadium and other league goings-on.
Q Would the Vikings still be here if the stadium wasn’t built?
A Well, I think the stadium is going to ensure that they’re here, that’s the best way to put it. This is going to be something to bring great events like the Super Bowl, and the Vikings will continue to be successful. And I think it’s just beginning. You can see the development that’s going on around it, and that’s great for this community.
Q Didn’t you inform Gov. Mark Dayton that if the stadium wasn’t built, the Vikings would move?
A Well, it wasn’t quite that way. I think the governor was terrific in providing leadership and recognized the value of keeping the team here and making sure they had to compete and be successful here, and we see what that leadership, along with the Wilfs’ leadership, has resulted in. We have a stadium here that everyone will be proud of and for many years to come will be an economic driver as well as a source of pride.
Q Does the league provide some revenue to the Wilfs to build the stadium?
A It does … $200 million, I think. This is something that every partner in the NFL helps their other partners. We all contribute to the stadiums. We also share our revenues more that any other league, and that allows the Vikings to be just as successful as the teams in the large markets and have the opportunity to win. … That’s what our whole system is based in, hope and that ability to win.
Q The concussion problem involving players seems to get more critical each year.
A We’re making a great deal of progress. Last week we announced an additional $100 million on top of the $100 million in research we’ve already committed to and funded most of that. But we’re going to continue. A lot is going to be in engineering, where we can develop a new helmet where we can protect against injury. But we put a lot in place, whether it’s rule changes or protocols that I think are making our players safer today than they’ve ever been, and we’ll continue to do that.
Q How is the relationship with the NFL players union?
A Good. We have a 10-year labor agreement; that’s unprecedented in sports. …We’re just in our sixth year now, and what we’ve seen is it’s incredibly well for the players, it’s working very well for the owners, and most importantly it’s working well for the fans. Watching the early games [Sunday], I think every game is within seven or eight points, so the competitiveness of the league is great, it continues to grow, and that’s the basis of why we’re going to unprecedented success going forward.
Q Are you happy with the progress the Rams have made since moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles?
A Very excited. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest in the Rams coming back to Los Angeles, and the team has done incredibly well as far as the excitement built around the game. They’re obviously just in the start of building their new stadium, which will be two, three years down the road. But we’re seeing the kind of enthusiasm we expected in Southern California, and that’s a tribute to the Rams and a tribute to the fans.
Q You have to be happy with the Wilf family and the job they have done here.
A Fantastic owners. I think this building, what they’re doing with their training facility — I was out here last month — and what they do on league levels to contribute … they’re active on various committees, they represent this community well and we’re proud of them.
Among the former Vikings greats here Sunday was one Francis Tarkenton.
Asked what he thought of the stadium, the Hall of Fame quarterback joked: “I think this stadium is almost as good as Metropolitan Stadium. Not quite as fancy as Metropolitan Stadium, but it’s pretty good. You and I were at Metropolitan Stadium 55 years ago for the first game.”
Tarkenton believes the Vikings can repeat as NFC North champions.
“We have a very, very good team,” he said. “We have a team that can contend for a championship. … And I like our new quarterback, Sam Bradford, I thought that was a very good move on our part. He gives us a chance to play for a championship, and this team has got the talent to do that.”
It sure looked like a good move Sunday night, when Bradford completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns in the 17-14 victory over the Packers. Bradford didn’t throw an interception and looked as though he had been playing in this offense for years, not weeks.
Asked how he compares the quarterbacks of today with those from his time, Tarkenton said: “They’re bigger, stronger, smarter than I was. The quarterbacks today are giants. Look at Sam Bradford, 6-4, 225, Cam Newton, 6-6, 250. I was 6 foot tall and 190 pounds, but I could play.”
Gannon on Rodgers
There is no better expert at rating quarterbacks than CBS’ Rich Gannon, the former Vikings QB who went on to become league MVP in 2002, when he led the Raiders to the Super Bowl.
Without hesitation, Gannon ranked the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers the best QB in the NFL, and maybe the best quarterback who has ever played the game.
“I think it’s his arm talent,” Gannon said. “I think he throws the ball as well as any quarterback in the league. I think, secondly, it’s his feet. He’s got great quickness, he’s elusive, he’s a difficult guy to get on the ground. He has the ability to extend plays with his legs, get outside the pocket where he’s very dangerous.
“And finally, it’s his football IQ. I think he’s a very intelligent player who’s been in one system his entire career.”
Rodgers might be the best quarterback in the NFL, but the Vikings played him well Sunday. He went 20-for-36 for 213 yards and one touchdown, and one very big interception by Trae Waynes late. Rodgers also ran three times for 29 yards and a TD.
Gannon said Rodgers is football-smart. “He knows it like the back of his hand, and that allows him to be very dangerous at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “Changing protections, changing players, you know, getting in the best play based on the front coverage.”
Gannon does television color commentary for Packers preseason games.
“You could make the argument that he’s the best quarterback in football right now,” Gannon said. “… The guy is an elite player at his position. It doesn’t have to be blocked perfectly, the route doesn’t have to be perfect. He can overcome a lot of mistakes around him. He’s that type of player. He’s good enough to win a game by himself.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org