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Zimmer: It's important Vikings stand for the national anthem

On Wednesday, NFL owners approved a new policy regarding the national anthem.

Not much is expected to change with the Vikings, according to head coach Mike Zimmer.

“I was proud of my team last year,” Zimmer said Wednesday following an offseason practice in Eagan. “They stood for the anthem. I think it’s important we stand for the anthem. I think it’s important we represent our country the right way. A lot of people have — I probably shouldn’t get on a tangent, right? — but a lot of people have died for that flag. That flag represents our country and what we stand for. And so, I think that’s important. I’ll stop there.”

During owner’s meetings in Atlanta this week, owners voted to enact a new policy for 2018 that requires teams and personnel on the sideline to stand for the national anthem, but players and personnel now have the option to stay in the locker room if they don’t want to stand.

With the rule tweak, the NFL also put the onus on teams to create their own individual policies. The league will fine teams, not players, if a player doesn’t stand for the national anthem. A player could then be fined by his team.

A handful of NFL players knelt or sat during the national anthem at points during the 2017 regular season, including the Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett and the 49ers’ Eric Reid. They carried on protest headlined in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick, who sat and then knelt during national anthems to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America.

Most teams in the league, like the Vikings, didn’t have a player sit or kneel during the anthem in the regular season last year.

In September, following President Donald Trump’s comments criticizing anthem protesters in the NFL, the Vikings (and several teams) took on variations of standing for the anthem without kneeling or sitting. Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, along with general manager Rick Spielman, interlocked arms along the sideline with the majority of players prior to the Week 3 win vs. Tampa Bay.

The Vikings’ longest-tenured player, defensive end Brian Robison, said he’ll continue to “stand up for that flag,” but he doesn’t have a problem with other players who protest.

“For me, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to stand up for that flag,” said Robison, the 35-year-old Texan. “At the same time, our military has fought for those freedoms to allow those guys to have that decision. Whether we agree or disagree with what their decision is, it doesn’t matter; not part of it. That’s their freedom to do what they want to do.”

Receiver Stefon Diggs declined to discuss the NFL’s new policy allowing players to stay in the locker room for the national anthem, other than saying he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself.

“For me personally, I don’t bring how I feel about things onto a team,” Diggs said. “I’m part of an organization, a part of a team. I always keep that first in mind. As a collective unit, I like to keep things that way. I try not to do anything that’s going to bring any attention to myself at all, I try to fly under the radar. As far as any comment on it, I belong to an organization and I belong to that.”

Robison accepts $2.1 million cut as Vikings restructure 2018 contract

When Vikings defensive end Brian Robison tweeted on May 14 that he’d be back for a 12th season in Minnesota, it stood to reason the 35-year-old, who had no guaranteed money left in his contract, had accepted a pay cut to return for 2018.

As it turns out, Robison agreed to a reduction that saved the Vikings $2.3825 million in cap space.

“I just wasn’t ready to hang it up yet,” Robison said Wednesday following a voluntary practice. “I needed to give it one more shot. It was a tough decision. It was something where I had to sit back and think about what was right for not only myself, but my family.”

The defensive end, who was scheduled to earn up to $3.5 million in 2018, will instead play for the veteran minimum base salary of $1.015 million, along with a $90,000 workout bonus. While it’s possible the Vikings could still cut Robison before the 2018 season, it seems far less likely they would do so, given the fact he still had four sacks in a part-time role last season and would still bring value to the roster both as a rotational pass rusher and a mentor for younger players.

“I’ve said since day one I wanted to bring a championship to the state of Minnesota,” Robison said. “If that’s something I have to give back $2 million to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

Robison said he thought about being released by the Vikings to test the open market.

“But for me, one of my morals is being loyal,” Robison said. “I wanted to be loyal to this organization, but I also had to do what was right for me and my family. What was right for me and my family was coming back here.”

After reworking Robison’s contract, the Vikings have $17.136 million in salary cap space remaining for the 2018 league year.

After restructuring his contract for the first time last year, Robison said he intended to retire after playing out the final year of his deal in 2018. It remains to be seen whether he’d consider returning in 2019, either on a new deal with the Vikings or another team.

But if 2018 is the final year in Minnesota for the popular player, it will grant him a season in the team’s new practice facility and one more chance to chase a Super Bowl ring with the Vikings. Few players were more outspoken about what the team’s 2017 playoff run meant to them than Robison, who hadn’t played in the NFC Championship Game since 2009. And after the Vikings’ 38-7 loss to the Eagles, few players were more visibly upset in the postgame locker room than the typically affable Robison.

He’ll get the chance to rewrite the ending to his career in Minnesota, albeit at a reduced salary. That tradeoff, Robison decided, was worth it.

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