I can't help but think the NFL owners' impending lockout of the players is just an extension of the black cloud that's hovered over the Vikings every step of the way since a 12th man was discovered in the huddle in the NFC Championship Game 12 months ago ...

Yes, a lockout hurts everybody. The players, the fans, the vendors and all 32 teams. But when it comes to the damage inflicted on the teams, I can't find a team that's set up in a worse situation than your Minnesota Vikings.

They're one of eight teams with a new head coach. Granted, Leslie Frazier served as an interim coach through the end of last year's debacle. But that was by the seat of his pants. He needs the offseason to get things together.

The Vikings also have a new offensive system. That takes a lot of time and hard work to install in the offseason.

You also might have noticed the Vikings don't have a franchise QB either. With a lockout, there's no trades, no free agency, no nothing, except for the draft at the end of April. So Joe Webb is potentially all the Vikings will have for a very long time. I like Joe, but that's not a good feeling for the near future, unless you're a Packers fan or Bears fan.

The Vikings also have about a gazillion holes to fill. If this were a normal offseason, they would have access to a record 495 free agents beginning March 4. Zygi's a pretty generous guy, so chances are the Vikings would have filled a few of the bigger holes with some decent players.

With the draft as the only way to improve during a lockout, the Vikings go in without a third-round draft pick. That's because Brad Childress threw it away on a 26-day rental on Randy Moss. Then Brad cut Randy, which ultimately was the move in which Brad also cut himself.

And, finally, you may have heard the Packers are a pretty good team. They don't partake in free agency that much, they have a franchise QB who's 27 and a rock-solid coaching staff that's backed by a rock-solid front office.

The Bears and Lions also have young QBs, coaching staffs, systems and GMs that carry over from last season. In other words, the Vikings would have already at the back of the line in a normal offseason. Throw in the limited ability to improve in any way and, well, things could be ugly in 2011.

I'm taking it as a good sign that the league and the players' union have agreed to let the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service become involved in negotiations in a non-binding advisory role.

Granted, if either side had declined, it would have been a public relations mistake on their part. And federal mediators can't force either side to do anything it doesn't want to do. But I keep hoping that somehow someone will be able to talk some sense into these people and keep them from whacking the goose that's been laying all these golden eggs.