Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built one of the most expensive stadiums in the world back in 2009, the $1.3 billion AT&T Stadium, so on Thursday he talked about how impressed he was with the new U.S. Bank Stadium and also about how important the stadium is for Minneapolis and for the NFL at large.
“It’s magnificent, I have such respect for the job that the Wilfs [did],” Jones said. “But just as important is all the support that people of the state and the city have had to have this great stadium here. I do know how much work and just everybody pitching in it took to build this great venue.
“Minneapolis is a cornerstone of the NFL. And everybody that really looks to our future, and looks to the NFL, knows that we had to have and needed a great venue to have a place for the Vikings to play.
“It’s great. You have one of the best coaches in the country in Mike Zimmer. I think you have it all here.”
Interestingly, HKS Architects designed both AT&T Stadium and U.S. Bank Stadium, and Jones said you could see that craftsmanship in the two buildings.
“I think it’s magnificent, this stadium, and the same architects were involved in both the stadiums,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re similar, but I can see the same quality of work.”
Jones said that while there had been a slight risk of the Vikings moving if they had not gotten the stadium built, the bigger issue for the community was just making sure it got completed.
“When I say they weren’t [going to move], obviously they want to compete, but that’s water under the bridge now,” he said. “Everybody got behind this thing and made it happen.”
And a Jones cohort predicted that, like AT&T Stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium will eventually be booked for major events almost every other week.
Easton next Harvard star?
Only 30 players from Harvard have ever reached the NFL and the Vikings have employed 10 percent of them in Matt Birk, Kevin Murphy and now Nick Easton, who made his first start at center on Thursday for injured Joe Berger.
And with the success that Easton had, it may be worth considering moving Berger to another spot on the depleted line and letting Easton make the snaps.
“I’m happy to get a chance and an opportunity,” Easton said about his start. “I just wish I could have done even more to help our team.”
He also said that the offensive line, despite being much maligned, remains close.
“I think we all trust each other to get the job done and go in and get it done,”Easton said. “I haven’t seen anything like it [with injuries], but I don’t think it’s unprecedented.”
Easton was signed as a rookie free agent with Baltimore in 2015, then joined the 49ers before being traded to the Vikings for Gerald Hodges last season. “Going against our defense [in practice], I personally think they’re the best in the business so going against them every day definitely helps you improve,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hodges, a starter for the 49ers, has 53 tackles, one forced fumble and two interceptions this season.
Brandt on Zimmer
Gil Brandt, the former vice player of personnel of the Cowboys from 1960 to 1988, has known Zimmer forever, and he heaped praise on the former Cowboys assistant.
“I’ve known him since he was a graduate assistant at Washington State about 50 years ago,” Brandt said. “… He passed up a job opportunity to become the head coach at the University of Nebraska because he wanted to be a head coach in the National Football League.
“I just know that, personally, he’s one of the finest people of all time. I think that he has the same traits as [Tom] Landry does, except he’s a defensive guy where Landry’s a defensive guy who became an offensive guy once he was with the team.”
Coaches battling illness
With Zimmer’s coaching future uncertain for the rest of the season because of his detached retina, it’s hard to think of a single state that has been hit by worse health issues for their coaches than Minnesota in recent years.
Some of the greatest people to ever work in athletics in this state have been struck by health issues that have taken them away from the sports they love.
The greatest loss, of course, was the death of Flip Saunders at age 60. Saunders rejoined the Timberwolves and built one of the greatest young rosters in the NBA, only to take ill with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and pass away just over a year after taking over the club.
Then there is former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill, who openly battled his epileptic seizures and gave so many people with the disease a ton of hope. But Kill had to step away because his health simply wouldn’t allow him to keep going at 100 percent, which was the only way he knew to do it.
And now you have Zimmer being threatened with potential blindness if he doesn’t step away from the Vikings in the middle of their season. One simply has to hope that Zimmer is able to continue coaching for years to come, because Minnesota sports fans have already lost so much coaching talent.
• The Vikings and Cowboys game was the most watched Thursday night NFL game ever. Tony Dungy said before the game, “The energy is greater than any of the Thursday nights I’ve been to so far.”
• It’s interesting that the Vikings moved the ball better against Dallas than any other team, especially in the second half when the home team moved the chains for 13 first downs while the winners had only six.
• The Vikings game was the Cowboys’ third in 12 days — all victories, as Dallas has won 11 games in a row since losing its opener to the Giants.
• Speaking of offensive lines and the problems the Vikings have had with that unit this season, the Cowboys have three Pro Bowl players on the line that faced the Vikings on Thursday.
• Speaking of the Heisman Trophy and the story on Bruce Smith’s anniversary of winning the coveted award, the Gophers had one other player come close to winning it in Paul Giel, who was second by just a few votes to John Lattner of Notre Dame in 1953. It was an odd coincidence that the Heisman banquet included Notre Dame’s famous Four Horseman as guests that year. I did a lot of campaigning for Giel that year as secretary of the College Football Writers Association and was very surprised when Giel didn’t get the award.
• Of the Gophers football players who have played since Jerry Kill became coach, 71 percent have graduated from the university. No other five-year period has totaled that percentage of graduates, a real tribute to Kill and his successor, Tracy Claeys.
• More honors to my close personal friend, former Vikings and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, with his being named the 11th Heisman Trophy Humanitarian Award winner. This award was given in recognition of Page’s tireless efforts to assist students of color to achieve their dreams of higher education.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org