NFC North: Mark Dayton

We're Black and Blue All Over:

A Minnesota state senator plans to introduce a bill next week to delay construction of the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium until revenue streams for paying the public's annual share are secured. Many of you panicked when I tossed that news out on Twitter late Thursday, but if you breeze through the Twitter timeline of the state senator (Sean Nienow), you see that even he agrees that the stadium is a "done deal" and won't be permanently derailed as a result of the bill or financing problems.

The intention, according to Nienow, is to force legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton to address the shortfall of and problems with the designated revenue streams in the bill. Projections initially called for $35 million in annual revenue from electronic pull-tab machines, but issues with distribution and use has dropped that projection to $1.7 million for 2013. Without another solution, the state might have to dip into its general fund to uphold its share of the financial obligations.

So it's not time to rekindle concerns about the franchise moving to Los Angeles. But it is time for the appropriate officials to figure out where the money is going to come from, and it's not outrageous to straighten out any mistakes before large chunks of money start getting spent on construction.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • The Vikings had two of the top inside linebackers in this draft at their "Top 30" event earlier this week, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com. Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and Georgia's Alec Ogletree were both in attendance.
  • The Detroit News compiled a list of the career highlights of Detroit Lions place-kicker Jason Hanson, who announced his retirement Thursday.
  • From the Detroit Free Press: The five players who have attempted an extra point over the last 30 years for the Lions.
  • Here are five of Hanson's most remarkable performances from Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.
  • The Lions have scheduled a visit with fast-rising pass-rusher Dion Jordan of Oregon, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
  • The Green Bay Packers' preseason schedule includes a rematch against the Seattle Seahawks, whose "Fail Mary" play last season secured a victory over the Packers on "Monday Night Football." Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more.
  • The Packers probably want to play all four preseason games on the same day of the week, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • The Packers have appeared on national preseason television at least once in 20 of the past 21 seasons, notes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • The Chicago Bears guaranteed about a third of free agent guard Matt Slauson's $815,000 contract for 2013, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com: "There might be motivation for the Bears to take the preseason a bit more seriously after the coaching staff underwent almost an entire makeover in the offseason. The offense, led by head coach Marc Trestman, is brand new. The defense, led by defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, is expected to retain some of the basic principles of the old scheme, but will no doubt feature its share of new wrinkles."
I usually try to post a "Quick Hit" item to catch up after missing some blog time, but the Chicago Bears' activity over the past week merits its own post. That item will publish shortly. For now, let's catch up on the other 75 percent of the division.

Item: The Green Bay Packers are making progress on a contract extension for quarterback Aaron Rodgers that will make him the highest-paid player in NFL history.
Comment: A deal has been inevitable for years. It will set a record in the short-term and be eclipsed at some point afterwards. So there will be two points of significance for us. One is obvious: The deal will extend contract peace with the most important player on the Packers' roster. The other has yet to be evaluated: How a contract that presumably averages more than $20 million per season will impact the Packers' future salary-cap space.

Item: After much public debate, the Packers did not touch the contract of tight end Jermichael Finley. He received a $3 million roster bonus, will remain with the team in 2013 and be eligible for free agency after the season.
Comment: It seemed clear for some time that coach Mike McCarthy was encouraged by Finley's performance late last season and wanted him back. The departure of receiver Greg Jennings gave the Packers the financial flexibility to make it happen. At the moment, Finley has the second-highest 2013 compensation on the Packers' roster ($8.25 million). It will be up to him to earn it or almost certainly move on after the season.

Item: The Packers ensured offseason competition for place-kicker Mason Crosby for the first time in five years.
Comment: The choice, former Cal place-kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, isn't exactly a shoo-in to win the job. Last month, we discussed some context to explain the Packers' affinity for Crosby. He'll be the heavy favorite to win the job again unless the Packers were to sign a veteran with experience. But after his inconsistent 2012 season, it's only fair to bring in some level of competition.

Item: Packers linebacker Brad Jones got the kind of contract that makes you wonder what the team has planned for him.
Comment: The deal included a $3 million signing bonus, a $1 million base salary and a roster bonus of $18,750 for every game he is active. So if Jones is active for 16 games this season, he'll earn $4.3 million in 2013. That's not special-teams money, the role you would assume for Jones if A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Nick Perry and D.J. Smith are all healthy.

Item: The Detroit Lions scheduled a visit for place-kicker David Akers because they are stymied in negotiations with incumbent Jason Hanson.
Comment: This isn't an unusual tactic to spur negotiations, and it's worth noting that Akers kicked himself out of a job last season with the San Francisco 49ers. Hanson is still an excellent field goal kicker. On the other hand, cap-strapped NFL teams don't want to extend themselves on specialists.

Item: The Lions hosted free-agent receiver Darius Heyward-Bey on a visit.
Comment: It's pretty clear the Lions are looking for more depth at receiver after hosting Heyward-Bey and a number of the top receivers in the draft as well. The release of Titus Young and Ryan Broyles' ongoing knee recovery makes for an obvious need.

Item: The Minnesota Vikings confirmed a topic we've discussed several times this offseason: They will be playing in new uniforms in 2013.
Comment: The uniforms will be revealed April 25 at the team's draft party. If the Vikings follow form with the mild updates to their logo in February, the uniform changes won't be significant.

Item: The father of Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace told the Miami Herald that the Vikings offered more money during Wallace's brief sojourn into the market.
Comment: Wallace seemed destined from the start to head to the warmer climate of Miami. The Vikings ended up with Jennings at $3 million less per season than Wallace signed for.

Item: The primary public funding mechanism for the Vikings' new stadium has fallen far below estimates.
Comment: Gov. Mark Dayton must figure out how to overcome a shortfall of more than $30 million. Electronic gambling revenues projections. created to fund the stadium, were dropped from $34 million to $1.7 million last week. As we discussed last month, there are two "blink-on" backup plans in place, a Vikings-themed lottery and a 10 percent tax on luxury suites, but projections could still fall short.

NFC North links: Roles for Leshoure, Bell

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
9:58
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Chicago Bears

The Bears and cornerback Kelvin Hayden have agreed to terms on a one-year deal.

David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune says the Bears could do a lot worse than using their first-round draft pick on linebacker Manti Te'o. Haugh: "Even after signing veteran free-agent linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson to replace Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach, the Bears lack the youth and stability Te'o offers the position. Whether [GM Phil] Emery uses the No. 20 selection or trades down in the first round, he could justify taking Te'o if Georgia's Alec Ogletree goes as the first inside linebacker, as many expect."

Detroit Lions

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, linebacker Justin Durant is close to agreeing to a contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

Even though the Lions signed running back Reggie Bush, they still expect Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell to play big roles in 2013.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers on Tuesday signed kicker Giorgio Tavecchio.

Free-agent safety Michael Huff is reportedly planning a visit to Green Bay.

Minnesota Vikings

Ben Goessling of the Pioneer Press reports the Vikings have re-signed linebacker Marvin Mitchell.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says it's too soon to panic regarding the e-pulltabs that are expected to cover the state's share of a new Vikings stadium. “We’ll work this out,” Dayton said. “It’s not about pointing fingers about what happened last spring. … Unless somebody can prove conclusively otherwise, I would say everybody -- the Gambling Control Board, the Department of Revenue, the Legislature, Republicans and Democrats, and my administration -- everybody acted in good faith, and has applied their best judgment to a totally unprecedented situation.”
At least two or three of you are asking what will happen if the primary source of public funding for the Minnesota Vikings stadium falls short of projections, as has been reported to be the case by several media outlets.

For our purposes, the most relevant question is whether the shortfall would delay construction, which is set to begin in October and be completed in time for the 2016 season. The short answer: Probably not.

The state's $498 million share of the $975 million project is to be paid for through sales of electronic pull-tabs. But the final two pages of the stadium bill provide for two "blink-on" funding provisions as backups. The first is an NFL-themed lottery and the second, if necessary, is a 10 percent tax on luxury suites.

And what of the doomsday scenario, where all three provisions fall short of the money required for the state's annual payments? At that point, from what I can tell, the state would have to produce money from its general fund -- something Gov. Mark Dayton promised not to do when campaigning for the facility.

While important, those machinations are sort of inside politics for the NFC North blog. The bottom line is there is a backup plan in place if not enough of you utilize those electronic pull-tabs. It would go against the spirit of the agreement, but when has a stadium construction ever proceeded without a hiccup or change of plans?

BBAO: Bears specialists scrutinized

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
7:50
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

Given the 180-degree turnaround of his sentiments Wednesday, I'm going to guess Chicago Bears place-kicker Robbie Gould got himself in a bit of hot water by criticizing the field conditions at Soldier Field on ESPN 1000. Gould reiterated his stance during an interview with reporters but recanted and apologized in a statement released by the team Wednesday evening. (It's worth noting that the field will be re-sodded before the Bears' next home game.)

But Gould wasn't the only Bears specialist under scrutiny. As colleague Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com notes, the team tried out four punters at its facility at a time when punter Adam Podlesh has been struggling. None were signed, but two of them were punters the Bears already know well: Spencer Lanning, who spent 2011 training camp with them, and Ryan Quigley, who was with them in camp this summer.

Podlesh ranks No. 21 in the NFL with a 38.4 net average and had three punts under 40 yards last Sunday against the Houston Texans. Replacing a veteran punter in the stretch playoff run is risky, and Podlesh doesn't appear to be struggling enough to make a switch. But the Bears were at the very least weighing their options.

Continuing around the NFC North:
 

Mark Dayton, you already approved PSLs

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
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On Monday, I suggested that anyone who thought the Minnesota Vikings wouldn't pursue some form of personal seat licenses (PSLs) for their new stadium was at least na´ve and, worst, delusional. Apparently that group includes the governor of Minnesota.

Gov. Mark Dayton fired off an angry letter to team owners Tuesday that, among other things, threatened to scuttle the team's $975 million stadium deal if the team institutes PSLs -- a plan that is under consideration but has not been finalized. PSL revenue would go to the Vikings, and therefore help offset their $477 million share of the deal, and Dayton wrote: "I strongly oppose shifting any part of the team's responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans. This Private Contribution is your responsibility, not theirs."

That makes sense in the real world. The Vikings' owners are rich men, and the NFL is a $9 billion industry. No one will go bankrupt if they don't claim a few thousand extra dollars from key season-ticket holders.

But there are some major holes in what is really just a sloppy political maneuver. The first: The stadium legislation Dayton signed last spring explicitly gave the Vikings clearance to sell PSLs through the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. Further, it allows them to count the revenues toward its share of construction costs.

Don't believe me? I dug up the legislation itself online and found the relevant passages. Here you go:
On the topic of what the bill refers to as "stadium builder's licenses," the legislation says: "The authority shall own and retain the exclusive right to sell stadium builder's licenses in the stadium. The authority will retain the NFL team to act as the authority's agent in marketing and selling such licenses."

In a subsection on the Vikings' contribution, the bill reads: "The NFL team/private contribution, including stadium builder's license proceeds, for stadium costs must be made in cash in the amount of $477,000,000."

Look, no one other than the Vikings and the NFL wants PSLs. I don't like them any more than you do. And I realize Dayton is doing what politicians do, which is to at least appear to defend us commoners. But his threat is silly and hollow when you realize he already agreed to what he is now protesting. If he felt so strongly about PSLs, he should have taken a stand during final negotiations.

In the big picture, this episode falls into the category of Minnesota politicians and businessmen not accepting the cost of doing business with the NFL. State leaders spent more than a decade fighting against the idea of public subsidies for a new stadium. But when faced with the consequences of that position, namely the likely departure of the franchise, they struck a deal that will cost taxpayers more than three times what it would have if they had agreed to build at the start of that fight.

PSLs are the same way. They've been used in more than half of the NFL's stadiums and, as distasteful as they seem, have proven reliable revenue producers. They're fair game based on the legislation. What made Dayton or anyone else think the Vikings wouldn't use them? A for-profit business should turn down the opportunity to generate revenue? Come on. Protests against inevitability are a waste of time.

NFC North links: Offensive line questions

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
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Chicago Bears

Michael C. Wright and Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com cite left tackle as the team's biggest question mark heading into training camp.

Running back Lorenzo Booker has agreed to a one-year deal with the Bears. He spent the past two seasons with the Vikings.

Detroit Lions

Continuing his look at upcoming training camp battles, Justin Rogers of Mlive.com looks at the one along the offensive line featuring Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus and Riley Reiff.

Following his DUI arrest last month, cornerback Aaron Berry will enter a diversionary program for first-time offenders.

Green Bay Packers

Martin Hendricks looks back on the career of Jim Flanigan Jr., who spent seven seasons with the Bears and a memorable one in Green Bay.

Jay Cutler over Aaron Rodgers? Yes, that's what Bears wideout Earl Bennett said.

Minnesota Vikings

Getting more out of its linebackers remains a priority this season for Minnesota.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton had some strong words when asked about the Vikings' recent string of off-field incidents. "Idle time is the devil's play," said Dayton, describing the NFL's six-month offseason. "It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are probably more susceptible to being in bars at 2 o'clock [in the morning] and having problems. It doesn't excuse it. It just says this probably comes with it."
One of the most frequent questions I get from people goes something like this: "So what do you do in the offseason?"

It's true the regular season runs from September to January, but I think we all recognize the NFL has become this country's first 12-month professional sports league. How deeply is the NFL embedded in our society? We got our latest example Friday.

Today is June 1, about six weeks after the draft, two months before the start of training camp and 100 or so days until the start of the regular season. On this day, the leader of the free world visited Minnesota to visit Honeywell, do some fundraising and speak on the issue of veteran employment in civil life.

Here is a link to the official transcript of President Barack Obama's remarks.

In his first sentence, Obama extended greetings to those in the suburb of Golden Valley.

His second sentence established that he was in the state of Minnesota.

His third sentence acknowledged Gov. Mark Dayton.

His fourth, fifth and sixth sentences: "On the way over we were talking about making sure the Vikings were staying. Now, that's a hard thing for a Bears fan to do. But I was rooting for the Vikings sticking around here -- and the governor did a great job."

Yes, the Minnesota Vikings' newly approved stadium bill was the first thing the president of the United States mentioned upon arriving in Minnesota. I realize it was a friendly warm-up on an otherwise serious and sobering news day, but still amazing, even if only to me.

That's all I've got. Have a great weekend.

BBAO: Rookie camps complete

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
7:30
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good morning. Three rookie minicamps over the weekend leaves us with more local links than a person has the right to expect on the second Monday in May. In this post, I've tried to pick out the highlights. Many of them don't relate to rookies, but be aware I'll have a second post up soon that addresses some of the questions we had Friday about these camps.
  • New Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice wants players to "play fast" in his scheme, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. Tice: "We don’t want to be out on the field and have the kids think[ing] too much. We don't want to make it hard for the kids. We want to make sure the kids know exactly what we’re gonna do, when we're gonna call it and why we’re gonna call it. That's our job as coaches. We have some great athletes on offense. We have to put them in a position to show us and show the fans, and show the people that love the Bears, their athleticism and explosiveness. We want to be explosive."
  • Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub downplayed any possibility other than Devin Hester being his top punt and kickoff returner in 2012. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune has more.
  • Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times checks in with former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, whose wife died unexpectedly three months ago.
  • New Bears quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates will have starter Jay Cutler rolling more often than he did under Mike Martz, according to Dan Pompei of the Tribune.
  • Detroit Lions defensive end/linebacker Ronnell Lewis is "nicknamed the Hammer for a reason," writes Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News.
  • Receiver Ryan Broyles was an "impatient observer" at the Lions' rookie minicamp, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Justin Rogers of Mlive.com offers five observations from the Lions' camp, including: "Linebacker Travis Lewis looked very comfortable in the defensive scheme, playing both outside and middle linebacker."
  • Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless (knee) isn't expected to be cleared to practice when training camp begins, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette takes a look at the Packers' current in-house options as a developmental center. He also notes the Packers have three assistant coaches who played center in the NFL.
  • The Packers might not give much training camp work to defensive linemen Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove, both of whom are suspended during the early part of the season. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com has more.
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will formally sign the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill on Monday, according to the Associated Press via 1500ESPN.com.
  • Richard Meryhew of the Star Tribune looks at the challenges of designing, planning and building the team's new stadium in a four-year timeline.
  • New Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson on his recent 15-day jail sentence, via Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "It was terrible. It sucked. Any kids out there, that's a place you don't want to be. Somebody tells you when to wake up, when to make your bed, when to take a shower, when you can have a snack. That's an obstacle you don't want to face. I want all kids to learn not to go down that path and to learn from me."
Zygi WilfIcon SMIZygi Wilf was able to secure a new stadium for the team without resorting to threats of relocation.

More than a decade of memories came flooding back after seeing the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill pass through the state Senate and head toward the inevitable signature of Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday, ensuring at least 30 more years of franchise continuity.

I picked up the beat in 2001, when state leaders began years of inattention by insisting the Sept. 11 attacks made for an inappropriate time to discuss stadium subsidies. I remember calling a young state legislator named Tim Pawlenty, who cheerfully suggested the team's top stadium lobbyist secure a straight salary rather than working on commission. "There's just no appetite here for more stadiums," Pawlenty said a few years before he was elected governor.

I took a trip to San Antonio, home of former owner Red McCombs, to scout it out as a potential relocation site. I wrote about an NFL meeting in 2003 in which league officials made a preliminary plan to place the Vikings in the NFC West if they eventually relocated to Los Angeles. I watched plans to share a stadium with the University of Minnesota collapse, as did suburban collaborations in Anoka and Arden Hills.

But most of all, I remember sitting in a converted racquetball court in the Vikings' cramped practice facility on June 16, 2005. On that day, new owner Zygi Wilf made a pledge that astonished all of us and figured to haunt him for the rest of his tenure atop the franchise.

Wilf said he would never move the team, regardless of a revenue deficit that forced McCombs to sell. He acknowledged he would like a new stadium but said: "If we're stuck in the Metrodome, then we'll be stuck in the Metrodome."

Given the years of inaction we had already witnessed, most of us figured the only way the Vikings would secure a new stadium would be by waving a ready-made offer to relocate elsewhere. But here, on one of his first days as an owner, Wilf had cut his leverage out from beneath himself and guaranteed a struggle to upgrade the franchise's home.

So on this day, it's worth noting that Wilf and his staff have agreed to relatively equitable terms on a bill for a new stadium without so much as an indirect or implied threat of relocation -- much less engaging in any substantive discussions with another locale.

Really, the only tense moment came last month when a state committee derailed the bill in a spate of political infighting. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell swooped into St. Paul to add some weight to the Vikings' campaign, and from then on final approval has seemed nearly inevitable. In the context of stadium debates, Wilf and the Vikings kept the tone cordial, amicable and most importantly aboveboard, securing a state legacy for the franchise and the owner himself.

It's been months since Wilf has spoken publicly on the stadium issue, a strategic decision the Vikings made to minimize attention on the "billionaire subsidy" argument and focus it on Dayton and the resulting job creation a stadium would bring. I'm sure there will be plenty of people who can't get past the additional revenues Wilf and his investors will receive in this deal, and I understand that. But in the context of professional sports, I truly think Wilf and his investors deserve some credit for saving the franchise for Minnesota.

Think about it. For years, state leaders fully exercised the leverage they held by virtue of the Metrodome lease and Wilf's publicly stated willingness to continue playing there. When the tables turned, Wilf declined to reciprocate and instead pursued a deal with the same people who wouldn't take the Vikings' phone calls in previous years.

Really, from a cold business standpoint, Wilf would have been better off minimizing his expenses, awaiting the expiration of the lease then shopping the franchise to the highest bidder from around the country. He paid $600 million in 2005 and, six years later, the Jacksonville Jaguars were sold for $760 million with a stadium situation much worse than the Vikings'. Outsiders bidding for the franchise almost certainly would have left the Minnesota legislature to match a much less equitable deal to keep the team, if it had the opportunity at all.

Instead, over the past seven years, Wilf and his partners have funneled the team more than $100 million in personal funds to account for a competitive player payroll, a larger front-office staff and modernization of the practice facility. Wilf aggressively pursued the stadium issue but passed on every opportunity to up the ante or enhance his leverage by turning his attention elsewhere. You might disagree with some of his decisions as a franchise operator, but Wilf and his investors have proved exemplary franchise stewards.

I can't control how you view Wilf and his group of out-of-town investors. But, Vikings fans, you guys lucked out. This could have been ugly and easily might have ended differently. Zygi Wilf made sure it didn't.

Earlier: The first post-approval questions the Vikings must consider.
Good evening, everyone. Just wanted to set the table for you as best we can on what might be another late night of Minnesota Vikings stadium intrigue.

The legislative conference committee is scheduled to open its formal discussions on merging the two stadium bills at 10 p.m. ET. As we noted earlier, there have been private meetings going on for most of the day and it's reasonable to assume much of the heavy lifting has been done already.

Indeed, both the state House of Representatives and Senate are scheduled to convene at 11 p.m. ET, presumably to be in position to approve the merged bill passed out of the conference committee. If that all happens, the final step in the process would be to send the bill to Gov. Mark Dayton for his final signature.

The big question is whether, or how much, the Vikings have agreed to raise their contribution. Both versions of the bill called for a higher total than their original $427 million. The House asked for $532 million and the Senate asked for $452 million. Again, it's reasonable to expect the total to wind up somewhere in between if a deal is to be completed Wednesday night.

I'll keep an eye on it for a while but I'm not committing to sitting it out through the duration. Stay tuned on that.

*Update: The merged bill is complete and has been posted online. It pegs the Vikings' total at $477 million, or $50 million more than they had originally committed. It's not yet clear if the Vikings have agreed to that total.
Just to respond to those who have been asking: As of about 4:15 p.m. ET, the Minnesota state legislature had not called a formal meeting of the conference committee charged with merging two versions of the Minnesota Vikings stadium bill and sending it off for a final vote and signature of Gov. Mark Dayton.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that a private, closed-door meeting with some committee members has been going on for most of the afternoon. But it is unclear what, if anything, has been accomplished.

None of this would be pressing if it were not for the time element involved. By law, the 2012 session has only one day left for voting after Wednesday. That day be designated any time between Thursday and May 20. Regardless, there isn't much time left to finish the reconciling project.
I gave in at about 11:30 p.m. ET on the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill deliberations. As it turns out, the Minnesota state Senate approved a version of the bill at about 1 a.m. ET after about 11 hours of debate. Here are accounts from the Associated Press, Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

While there are several important steps remaining, this vote puts the Vikings on the verge of concluding a decade-long drive to replace the Metrodome. I'll save all of the grand conclusions and analysis until the process is complete, but it would be surprising to see the stadium bill break down at this point. Both houses of the state legislature are now on record supporting it, and we already know that Gov. Mark Dayton is ready to sign a bill. Only a bit of sausage-making remains.

Let's quickly address where the process goes from here.
  1. The Senate version of the bill and the House of Representatives' version will be sent to a conference committee, as early as Wednesday, to reconcile significant differences in the language. This is not unusual in terms of lawmaking.
  2. The most contentious difference, and one in which the Vikings likely will exert some lobbying influence, is how much the team must pay toward the $975 million project. The original bill called for $427 million. The House raised it to $532 million and the Senate to $452 million. Common ground must be reached to move on.
  3. The Senate added a set of user fees to augment the original funding sources, and those fees are probably one of the reasons the bill passed the Senate. According to the Star Tribune, the fees include: "a 10 percent fee on the sale or rental of stadium suites, a 10 percent fee on parking within a half mile of the stadium during NFL events and a 6.875 percent fee on team jerseys and other league-licensed products sold at the stadium." The Vikings are opposed to user fees because they cut into team revenue they would otherwise receive on sales of those items.
  4. Assuming the conference committee agrees on one unified bill, it will be sent back to both houses for a vote.
  5. If approved in both houses, the bill will be sent to Dayton for his signature.

My understanding is that all of this must happen in the next two working days of the legislature. By law, the legislative session can't extend beyond 120 days and Tuesday was day No. 118. As the world turns ...
By all accounts, it's been a raucous day at the Minnesota state capitol, where an unlikely intersection between state lawmakers, Minnesota Vikings fans and unemployed union construction workers is taking place.

Tailgaters have been on site since early Monday morning, and the Vikings held an early afternoon rally with Gov. Mark Dayton and four players, including quarterback Christian Ponder. (Video here from 1500ESPN.com's Tom Pelissero.) The state House of Representatives formally took up the bill at 3 p.m. ET, but debating the stadium bill has proved difficult given the volume of chants from fans just outside the chamber walls. Eventually, according to onlookers, House Speaker Kurt Zellers asked that the doors remained closed so the debate could be heard by all members.

If you're following the play-by-play on Twitter or via the House's closed-circuit feed, you know that members approved an amendment that increased the Vikings' share in the $975 million project from $427 million to $532 million. It's doubtful the Vikings would go for that change, but it's important to note that amendments are always subject to negotiation when a final bill is drafted. It wouldn't be surprising to see the bill changed in other ways as well.

In the end, however, the goal for stadium supporters is to continue to push the ball down the field. In the end, that would mean approval in some form from the House and moving on to the Senate. Again, the House could be hours and hours away from a final vote. Stay tuned.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good Monday morning to everyone. The Minnesota Vikings are hoping that Monday afternoon and evening are good to them as well.

Yes, the first floor vote of the Vikings' stadium bill is scheduled to take place Monday in the state House of Representatives. If it passes, the state Senate likely will schedule a vote on its version of the stadium bill later this week. If it fails in the house, the bill almost certainly is dead for this 2012 legislative session and the situation will take a closer step toward Armageddon.

This issue is so hotly contested that debate could extend well into the evening and late night, so there is no way to know when we'll have any news to report. We'll of course be monitoring it while also keeping an eye on what is expected to be a large contingent of Vikings fans essentially tailgating at the State Capitol in a uniquely football lobbying campaign.

Catching up on weekend news from around the division:

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