One thing former Vikings coach Bud Grant always demanded when he was involved in the drafting of football players was that the background of the athlete's durability be checked equally as much as his athletic ability.

When Grant was coaching, I would always attend the first day of practice in Mankato, and one of things Grant liked to do was to write down a list of players who he felt would miss some of the first weeks of practice and spend a lot of time in the training room. If he mentioned 10 players, he was normally right on eight.

Well, now you have the case of two stars -- Joe Mauer of the Twins and Marian Gaborik of the Wild.

I'm not accusing either one of not wanting to play hurt.

But check the figures: Gaborik has missed more than 150 games during his nine seasons with the Wild. He missed 65 this season. He also missed 34 during the 2006-07 season and 17 the previous season.

Mauer has also missed more than 150 games since his first season in 2004. Mauer missed 124 of those in 2004 when he suffered two different injuries at two different times. He did miss 30 games in 2007, and now he has missed six and likely will miss 25 or so this year.

On the other hand, Justin Morneau played in all 163 games last year.

The Wild and the Twins aren't going to win many games without Gaborik and Mauer.

That is why durability is so important.

Pittman improved

When the 2008 Gophers football recruiting class was announced, one of the names that received a big build-up was versatile David Pittman, who played quarterback and other positions in 2007 for Pasadena City College. But Pittman was hurt most of the season, and didn't contribute a thing.

Not much has been heard about Pittman during spring practice, nor has coach Tim Brewster been raving about the junior college transfer, but Brewster still is expecting some good things from Pittman this season.

"He fell short of his production points just because he's been hurt," Brewster said.

"He's doing a nice job. He's back healthy. You can see he's running around better, and doing some good things at the receiver spot."

Brewster expects Pittman to see some action this year.

"For sure," Brewster said. "He's a good player. This year we'll get a chance to find out. He's had a good spring. He's done a nice job."

Pittman, whose 303 completions were a junior college record for season, brings many strengths to the field, Brewster said.

"He knowledge of the game. His understanding of the game," Brewster said. "He's a very bright football player. He can do a lot of things very well. He's a versatile guy."

Well we will see. So far the junior college members of the squad have contributed little.

Jottings

Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self has indicated that the Gophers and Jayhawks will play a home-and-home series with the game beginning this year and on national television. The Gophers are reported to have dropped North Dakota State to add Kansas. ... Tony Dungy continues to be a big booster of the Gophers wrestling team. He gave them a pep talk the other day when he was in town to speak at the Minneapolis Club.

The Twins raised their payroll from last year, going from $56.9 million to $65.3 million. ... The Twins continue to benefit from the revenue sharing in the major leagues, getting a check for $20 million-plus for the 2008 season. ... The Twins have set a new high of close to 11,000 season tickets sold.

It appears that Mauer will not be coming back to Minnesota for the club's Gold Glove, Silver Bat and Silver Slugger presentations next weekend, according to Patrick Klinger, the team's vice president of marketing. Mauer is going to stay in Florida in hopes of returning to the lineup late this month or early May. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will honor Morneau with the Tip O'Neill Award as the best Canadian-born baseball player of 2008.

The Gophers men's and women's athletic departments have dropped to third in the Learfield Sports Directors Cup honoring overall athletic achievements, with Stanford still leading and North Carolina replacing the Gophers in second.

Two Gophers freshmen, Mario Mason at 145 pounds and Ryland Geiger at 211, won at the FILA junior national wrestling championships in Las Vegas on Saturday.

At the Porstmouth Invitational tournament for NBA draft prospects, North Dakota State guard Ben Woodside of Albert Lea, Minn., averaged 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists as his team went 1-2. He scored 16 points on 7-for-16 shooting Saturday night and was the leading scorer for his Cherry, Bekaert & Holland team, which lost in the third-place game to Portsmouth Partnership 92-74.

Justin Milo, a former Edina hockey player, is a member of the Vermont hockey team that made it to the Frozen Four. ... Zach Parise is the NHL's fifth-leading scorer with 44 goals and 49 assists for New Jersey. ... Former Gopher Jeff Frazee is the top goalie for Lowell of the American Hockey League with a 27-20-6 record, a 2.61 goals against average, and .922 saves percentage. ... Former Gopher Gino Guyer is the fifth-leading scorer for Phoenix of the East Coast Hockey League with 14 goals and 28 assists in 71 games.

Gophers hockey recruit Ryan Walters was the second-leading scorer during the regular season for Des Moines of the United States Hockey League with 18 goals and 26 assists in 60 games. ... For the Fargo Force, Gopher recruits Josh Birkholz (21 goals-15 assists in 55 games) and Nate Condon (11 goals-18 assists in 58 games), were the third- and fifth-leading scorers. ... Defenseman Seth Helgeson had four goals and 12 assists along with 64 penalty minutes for Sioux City of the USHL ... Seth Ambroz, a Gophers recruit for 2011, ended up with 14 goals and 17 assists for Omaha.

Gophers center Jordan Schroeder heads the list of local players who are projected by most NHL draft pundits to be candidates for the first two rounds of the 2009 NHL Entry draft. Others on the list are Gophers recruits Zach Budish, Edina; defenseman Nick Leddy, Eden Prairie; Josh Birkholz, a wing for Fargo of USHL; defenseman Seth Helgelson, who plays for Sioux City of USHL and Eric Haula, Shattuck-St. Mary's. Other candidates are: Ben Hanowski, the Little Falls standout, going to St. Cloud State; Holy Angels wing Danny Mattson; St. Cloud State recruit Mike Lee, of Roseau and Edina's Anders Lee, who will play for Notre Dame.

Ev Faunce, a former great Gophers running back from Fergus Falls and later a coach at Utah State, passed away this past week. Faunce, 82, was suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com