Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
PHOENIX – The Vikings received big news on the financial front at the NFL’s annual meeting on Monday, gaining approval for the league’s G4 financing program, a plan that allows franchises building new stadiums to receive what is essentially a fully-guaranteed loan from the league.
The Vikings, who are in line to be contributing $477 million towards their new downtown stadium, expect to receive the maximum allotted $200 million worth of G4 financing from the NFL.
That amount will ultimately be repaid over 15 years.
Vikings owner Mark Wilf called the financing approval “a major step forward for the [stadium] project” and lauded the efforts of team CFO Steve Poppen.
“This is a statement of support from the NFL and the other owners that this is a project that they believe in,” Wilf said. “And they want to put their financial wherewithal behind it.”
The Vikings request for G4 financing was presented by the league’s joint finance and stadium committee and ultimately approved by the league’s ownership.
With the stadium plans moving forward, the Vikings have also submitted an application with the NFL to potentially host the Super Bowl after the 2017, ’18 or ’19 seasons.
At present, the Vikings are scheduled to move into their new downtown stadium for the 2016 season. That would give them two full seasons before they could host the Super Bowl at the earliest in February 2018.
Every three or four years, a former Packers star decides to come west and bail the Vikings out of a gigantic jam.
Ryan Longwell filled a gaping hole at kicker in 2006 and went on to post six successful seasons. Brett Favre stepped in for a QB-starved outfit in 2009 and led it to within seconds of a Super Bowl. And now former Packers receiver Greg Jennings has signed on with a Vikings team that's bone dry at receiver and hasn't had a legitimate No. 1 wideout since Sidney Rice was catching passes from Favre in 2009. Jennings' deal is for five years, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Jennings doesn't fit Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman's normal parameters for a free agent. Jennings will turn 30 in September and has missed 11 games because of knee and core muscle injuries over the past two seasons.
But here's what Jennings is: Productive. Although he caught only 36 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, he did post 1,100-yard seasons from 2008 to 2010.
Jennings will be introduced during a press conference at Winter Park at 7:15 p.m. We'll have more later this evening.
So what are the odds that the Vikings will win Super Bowl XLVIII?
People who earn and protect their money against your wagers say 50-1. At least that's what the online sports book Bovada has the Vikings at as the first week of free agency winds to a close.
Those odds come in tied for 22nd in the 32-team league. They're also the longest of the four NFC North teams. The Packers are at 12-1, tied for fifth. The Bears are tied for 12th at 25-1, while the Lions are tied for 16th at 35-1.
The Broncos and 49ers are tied for first at 7-1. The Jaguars are last at 150-1.
And in Seattle, the trade for Percy Harvin moved the Seahawks from 12-1 to 10-1.
No word on how crazy one has to be to place a bet on the NFL, let alone a bet in March on who's going to win the Super Bowl in 11 months.
The question with Greg Jennings has never been about ability. Over seven NFL seasons, Jennings has caught 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 TDs. He’s a versatile weapon who is adept at both stretching the field from the outside or keeping defenses honest as a smooth-moving slot guy.
He is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the kind of proven and consistent playmaker that the Vikings’ receiving corps needs. Yet when free agency neared, the questions about Jennings circled.
At this point -- with Jerome Simpson and his 97 career catches as the top dog in the receiving unit – the Vikings are in no position to be picky. And that’s why, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that Jennings will visit Winter Park on Thursday, the Vikings would be wise not to let him leave without a purple jersey and a rubber-stamped contract.
This visit should be a business interview, a way of unifying a vision and hammering out the finer print of the contract details. The Vikings have had since late Friday night to communicate at length with Jennings’ agent, Eugene Parker. You can bet Parker has an asking price, one that’s moved over the past several days. And you can bet Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has a thought in mind for what he’d like to ultimately pay.
But as Spielman said Tuesday afternoon about the chaos and unpredictability of free agency, “This is a very fluid business.”
Indeed it is.
At this point, so many other free agent receivers are off the board. Mike Wallace is in Miami. Wes Welker has gone to Denver. Danny Amendola has landed in New England. Donnie Avery is a Chief. Brandon Gibson, reports say, has visits scheduled with the Jets, Dolphins and Titans.
The Vikings? They’ve always vowed to be patient in free agency, to make sure they find guys who fit their system, their character profile and their budget. But to this point, the Vikings have given out six contracts this week, all of them re-signings of players that were already on the roster.
The biggest move by far so far was Monday’s trade or Percy Harvin to Seattle, followed a day later by the surprise release of Antoine Winfield.
The Vikings have lost their top playmaker in the passing game and their linchpin leader on defense. In a pass-happy league, they’ve depleted their receiving corps and their secondary.
At some point, they need a splash to replenish the talent pool in a major way. And there’s no way they should allow themselves – nor had they ever planned to – to get to April’s draft with Simpson as their top receiver.
That’s why today’s reported visit with Jennings shouldn’t be a getting-to-know-you encounter. It should be a determined effort to provide third-year quarterback Christian Ponder a real weapon. Welker’s two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos was a huge power-shift move in the AFC, taking the league’s most prolific pass catcher over the past six years and moving him from one Super Bowl contender to another. But Welker’s contract may have also been a shifting of power in Jennings’ negotiating leverage. Sure, there have been the mammoth deals for receivers – six years, $67 million for Harvin; five years $65 million for Wallace; five years, $56 million for Dwayne Bowe.
But now, wouldn’t it make sense that Jennings’ price tag slides closer to that Welker ballpark. If so, the Vikings should be quietly celebrating. And they should be doing everything they can to make sure that Jennings is their guy.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o generated quite a media crush at the NFL Combine this afternoon, participating in his first press conference since word of the now infamous Lennay Kekua fake girlfriend hoax broke last month.
It was no surprise that Reporters and TV cameras swarmed around Podium C at Lucas Oil Stadium as Te’o held a q-and-a session that lasted 14 minutes, 35 seconds.
We’ll have much more on Te’o’s brief appearance and his overall draft status as our combine continues. For now, here is most of what he had to say during Saturday’s presser:
On what explanations he can provide as to how the whole hoax developed and affected him …
“About the incident, I’ve said all I needed to say about that. How I’m handling it going forward has been what I’m doing now. I’m focusing on the moment and focusing on football and the combine. Not everybody gets this opportunity to be here. I’m sure there are thousands and thousands of people who would like to be here in Indianapolis. So I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.”
On how much he’s been asked about the hoax in interviews with NFL teams …
“Quite a few teams have asked me about it. Some go to certain lengths. Some just ask me, ‘Give me a brief overview of how it was.’ And then they get straight to business about football.”
On why he played poorly in the BCS title game against Alabama …
“Because I didn’t. That’s all on me. That’s something that, I played hard and so did my team. But Alabama had a great game plan. And so did we. It’s just they executed it better than we did.”
On whether the hoax was a distraction during the national championship game …
On whether any teams hadn’t asked him about the hoax …
"No. They’ve all asked me about it. Just, ‘Tell me the facts.’ They want to hear it from me. So I just want to tell them basically what happened."
On the summary he’s able to give teams when they ask …
“I cared for somebody. And that’s what I was taught to do. Ever since I was young. When somebody needs help. You help them out. Unfortunately it didn’t end up the way I thought it would.”
On why he waited so long to speak up publicly after details of the hoax broke …
“It was just a whirlwind of stuff. For me, a 22-year-old, a 21-year-old at that time, you’re just trying to get your thoughts right. Everything’s just kind of chaos for a little bit. So you let that chaos down and wait until everybody’s willing to listen.”
On whether he understands the people who doubt his version of events because it took him so long to provide his version of the story …
“That I don’t know. People doubting because I took a while to come out? From our point of view, we wanted to let everything come out first and then have my side come out. So the way that we did it I felt worked best for me. And I’m just very grateful for those who helped me to get through that time. Because I think it went over as smoothly as it could.”
On whether NFL people have indicated that this will impact his draft stock …
“No. Not really. They’ve told me that they all just want to hear it from me what the truth was. And they haven’t really said anything about it affecting me. Some guys we just talk briefly and I describe it for 30 seconds and the next 14 minutes is all plays and just getting down to business. That’s how I prefer it to be.”
On whether he worries about how he’ll be treated inside an NFL locker room …
“No. I think I’ve learned the difference between the things I can control and the things I can’t control. And hopefully by doing the things I can control, I’ll have more favor in the other category. But whatever team I go to, I’m just going to be me and work hard and just do my best to help the team win and whatever happens happens.”
On whether he’s been surprised by the media fascination in his saga …
“It’s pretty crazy. I’ve been in front of a few cameras. But not as many as this.”
On the initial tsunami of attention the controversy attracted …
“It got overwhelming at times. I think the hardest part, and I’ve said this, is just to see not necessarily my first name, but it’s my last name. Everybody here, you treasure your last name. That’s what you hold dear. That’s something when you pass on, the only thing that stays with you, that stays here is your last name. So to see my last name everywhere and to know that I represented my family and all my cousins and aunties and that was hard.”
On whether he’s prepared to deal with this heavy volume of media attention …
“Oh, yeah. For me, hopefully I’m just looking forward to getting ready and getting straight to football. I understand people have questions. But I think I’ve answered everything I could. And for me, I’d really like to talk about football.”
On what he tells team as a football player …
“I think what I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and I’m somebody who works hard. Somebody who hates to lose. And I’ve always said I hate losing more than I love to win. And the reason I love to win is because I don’t have to go through that feeling of losing. So it’s those times that I lose where that feeling will stick with me. And so for the teams I just told them you’ll always get somebody who’s humble, works hard, doesn’t say much but will do everything it takes to win.”
On whether he has any lingering regret about the controversy …
“I could have done some things different. I could have done a lot of things different to avoid all this stuff. But throughout my experience my senior year, I wouldn’t do anything differently.”
On whether this has all been an embarrassing experience …
“Oh, definitely. Anybody to go through [this], it’s definitely embarrassing. You’re walking through a grocery store and you kind of like give people double takes to see if they’re staring at you. It’s definitely embarrassing. And I guess it’s part of the process, part of the journey. But you know what? It’s only going to make me stronger. And it definitely has.”
On whether he’s past the point of embarrassment now …
“Definitely. It definitely has gone. Obviously I’m here. If I was still embarrassed I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you.”
On whether he understands what NFL teams are looking for when they ask about the hoax …
“They want to be able to trust their player. You don’t want to invest in somebody who you can’t trust. So, with everybody here, they’re just trying to get to know you. And they’re trying to get to know you as a person and as a football player. I understand where they’re coming from.”
On whether he has a hurdle to get over in the honesty department …
“It could be a hurdle. But it could also be a great opportunity to show who you really are. That’s the way I have to approach this. It’s been a great learning experience for me.”
On possibly being drafted by the Super Bowl champion Ravens as a replacement for Ray Lewis …
“Ray Lewis, I’ve grown up watching Ray Lewis. Just watching his intensity, his passion for the game, his love for the game, his work ethic. Everything in a linebacker that you want to be is in Ray Lewis from leadership qualities on. All that. He’ll be definitely missed in Baltimore and in the NFL as a whole. But if I get to go to Baltimore, there will definitely be big shoes to fill. But an opportunity that I’ll be honored to have.”
On how he has changed from all that has happened …
“For me, I’ve learned, first to be honest in anything you do. And everything. From the big things to the small things. And to keep your circle very small. And to really understand who’s really in your corner and who’s not. I think going off the season that my team and I had, there were a lot of people in our corner. And then when Jan. 16 happened, there was a lot of people in the other corner. So I just learned to appreciate the people that I have that are with me and to just make sure that you always try to turn a negative thing into a positive.”
On the toughest moment of the past few months …
“I think the toughest moment to be honest with you was a phone call that I got from my sister. She told me that she had to sneak my own family in their home. Because there were people parked out in their yard. And that had to be the hardest part. And for me, something that I’ve always had problems with is when I can’t do something about it. When I can’t help. So to know that my family was in this situation because of the actions that I committed was definitely the hardest part for me.”
On the challenges he’ll face as a player at the next level …
“Obviously the game just gets even faster. It gets a lot more complex. But I think what I have to do as a player is remember why I’m playing this game, It’s still the same game I played when I was a little kid, on the streets. Same thing. The football is still the same shape. Obviously people are going to be professionals. This is where the best play. But as long as I don’t stray too far from who I am and what I believe in, I think the journey will be worth it.”
On moving past the hoax controversy as he transitions to the NFL …
“Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. And one of the positive things about what I went through is I’ve learned to empathize with those who are going through the same thing, those who are going through some hard times, who are getting attention that they don’t necessarily want. And it just taught me, from going through that, to always just give somebody the benefit of the doubt and just say, You never know. You never know what’s going on with a person.”
On whether he considered taking legal action the hoax perpetrator Ronaiah Tuiasosopo …
“No. I think that’s the worst thing you could do. Both families are going through chaos. There’s no need. People camped out at my house. There’s people camped out at his house. So I went through what I went through and he went through his own share of stuff. So I think that’s the worst thing for me to do is to do that. Always try to forgive. If you forgive, you’ll get the majority of the blessings. So I always try to forgive and it’s definitely benefited me.”
On his emotions when he got that phone call from his sister …
“It’s just why. Just why. It should never get that way. I think as people we have to realize that we’re all people. Somebody is somebody’s son. Somebody is somebody’s daughter. And I try to picture it that way. Would you want somebody doing that to your son? Would you want somebody doing that to your daughter? If not, why do it? So through this whole experience, I’ve learned that. And since I’ve experienced it, the things I see, the things I do, I try to always think that’s somebody’s son, that’s somebody’s daughter, somebody’s mom or dad. And whatever I do, try to base whatever I do off that.”
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