NFC North: Mark Wilf

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Concluding our Q&A with Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer (here's part 1 and part 2):

What has your working relationship been like with [general manager] Rick [Spielman] and the Wilfs?

Zimmer: Really good. Really good. I don't talk to Mark and Zygi all that much -- every Monday after the game we talk, after the game, I see them and stuff like that, and sometimes before the game, but that's really about it. But they've been, with everything, anything I've asked for, they've been accommodating. Rick has been really good. We'll sit down and talk; we'll watch film together, we'll watch the game tape after the game together. It's actually been pretty easy. That part has been easy.

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
AP Photo/Jim MoneCordarrelle Patterson has had problems playing at a consistently high level.
Was that a big adjustment for you -- being more involved in the higher-level stuff with management?

Zimmer: Not too much, because in Dallas, Jerry Jones was pretty involved. And then in Cincinnati, I met with Mike Brown every Monday. He was involved in all the draft meetings and everything. He was at practice every single day. It really wasn't that much different.

At least watching from the outside, it seems like your working relationship with Rick is pretty good -- it seemed like you were kind of able to say, 'Here's what I need to be successful,' and he was able to go get it. Is that how it's worked?

Zimmer: Yeah, and he's said, when he goes on the road now and looks at these college guys and stuff, even now, in watching how we play and the things we do, I think he's getting a better idea of what we need. Everything happened so fast before the draft -- getting here in January and all that, and trying to evaluate. Now, [Scott] Studwell and George Paton and Rick, when they're watching the tape and seeing how we play, the things we do and the techniques we're teaching, I think they have a good idea of that. It's never going to be 100 percent agreement on everything, but from watching the defensive players for so long, I have a good idea -- now, I'm wrong a lot, too, and we all are -- but I think the core characteristics that we're looking for in guys are easier to spot when you've been watching the tape.

In terms of getting all the pieces you need and guys that are perfect fits in your system, is it hard to expect that to happen in a year? Do you think it takes a couple cycles of player acquisition to get everything you need?

Zimmer: I don't ever look at it like that, because I think I'm a pretty good coach, and I can coach guys into doing it. Like, Josh Robinson, I think he's had a pretty good half so far. I think when guys learn the techniques we're trying to teach, they can improve. That's all I've ever tried to do, is improve players -- whoever they are, whoever we have at the time -- and then worry about the next year and figure out how we can get other guys in here. My job is to take each player and make them better every day.

You mentioned Cordarrelle [Patterson] a little bit [in your Tuesday news conference]. Is he still figuring out what you guys want from him, or is it a matter of being consistent in practice every day? What's the summary of where he's at right now?

Zimmer: It's not so much the consistency in practice, because I think he's doing a lot of good things in practice. It's maybe the consistency in the game a little bit more. That's really it -- it's being consistent, running the same route all the time, being at the same depth, running the same release, so that everybody is on the same page. That's really what it's about.

When he got here, of course, he hadn't played a lot of football. Is it something that just takes time for him to learn all the nuances of the game?

Zimmer: Yeah, and it's different for every player. Anthony Barr is coming here as a young guy that's learned a lot of things in a short amount of time, and some guys take a little bit longer. That's always how it's been. I've had some really great players that, in their third year, they start really coming on and figuring it out -- guys that have probably played more football than [Patterson] did. As long as they work, and they want to do the things the right way, and continue to do it good -- and I think he does. That's why it was good last week [against Tampa Bay] that he had some success. We've just got to keep trying to get him maintaining the consistency level.

You've mentioned you haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to Adrian Peterson's legal status. If he comes back, is it hard to put him back in the system when it's been this long?

Zimmer: I think it all depends on the guy a little bit. Each person is different. I've had a player tear his Achilles, and the first day back, he remembers everything and how to do it. And then you have other guys that will come back, and you have to re-teach their steps and technique -- everything. I think everything's different with every player.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The televised celebration in the Minneapolis bid committee's conference room on Tuesday afternoon -- in response to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's announcement that Super Bowl LII was headed to the Twin Cities -- was spontaneously raucous, in the way that only a celebration of the end of a long wait can be. As Minnesota Vikings officials, corporate CEOs and civic leaders exchanged jubilant (and occasionally awkward) high-fives and embraces, the room quieted down only at the mention that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was about to speak on TV.

It was then I realized: This must have been the first time in a while where it was purely, unequivocally good for the Wilf family to be the owners of the Vikings.

[+] EnlargeZygi Wilf and Mark Wilf
AP Photo/David GoldmanVikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf were all smiles after Minneapolis was selected as the host for the 2018 Super Bowl.
Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf, who prefer to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible, have presumably spent too much time in it for their liking in the past nine months, and rarely for positive reasons. First, there was the news that a New Jersey judge had ordered the family to pay $100 million in damages to its business partners in a 21-year-old lawsuit, which the Wilfs are still fighting in appellate court. That lawsuit triggered an emergency (if slightly theatrical) review of the Wilfs' finances that threatened to delay groundbreaking on the Vikings' new stadium, and four days after Zygi and Mark Wilf appeared at a news conference to announce the firing of coach Leslie Frazier following a 5-10-1 season, the owners ordered an independent review of the organization in the wake of former punter Chris Kluwe's allegations he was cut because of his support for same-sex marriage.

Even low-level controversies, like the news the Wilfs were receiving tax breaks in exchange for storing stadium dirt on parking lots they owned in downtown Minneapolis, played on the narrative that the Vikings' owners were suspicious out-of-towners, intent on driving hard bargains with a community that counts three Midwesterners as the owners of its other pro teams and tends to be leery of slick East Coast mavens.

But on Tuesday, the Wilfs weren't seen as carpetbaggers. They were the patient, steady hands who bought the Vikings in 2005, never threatened to move the team during a long legislative battle over a new stadium and ultimately helped forge the partnership on a $1 billion complex that will bring the Super Bowl back to Minnesota for the first time in 26 years. They got to talk about the "beginning ... of a long, great relationship and a great venue that everyone in Minnesota can be proud of," and as a kicker, they helped Minnesota exact a small measure of revenge for one of its most bitter NFC Championship Game defeats, beating out New Orleans for the right to host the game four years after the Vikings' overtime loss to the Saints. After a long, tenuous stretch, they seemed as much a part of the community in Minnesota as they had in some time.

However unscrupulous the Wilfs' business dealings might make them seem in the eyes of Minnesotans, it's tough to argue they haven't been good owners since they bought the team from Red McCombs. They've funded one of the NFL's highest payrolls, routinely spending money in free agency and giving general manager Rick Spielman the freedom to acquire seven first-round picks in the past three years. They were patient with state legislators through the fits and starts of the stadium process, even as the Vikings' local revenues in the outdated Metrodome ranked among the league's lowest. And they've now got the distinction of being the owners who helped bring America's biggest sporting event back to a state that might never have been more energized than when it had the game last time, in the middle of a remarkable 10-month run that saw the U.S. Open, Stanley Cup finals, World Series, Super Bowl and Final Four land in the Twin Cities in 1991 and 1992, making Minnesota the center of the nation's sporting conscience.

On top of all that, the Wilfs have a new head coach they like, a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater and an iconic player in Adrian Peterson. The narrative around the team right now is very much about what's exciting and new, and very little about the unsightliness of the past nine months. Tuesday was a good day for them to be the owners of the Vikings, and as they landed a Super Bowl that's sure to induce plenty of fretting about Minnesota's frosty climate, it probably wasn't hard for the Wilfs to feel the warmth from their adopted fan base.
Leslie FrazierAdam Bettcher/Getty ImagesLeslie Frazier led the Vikings to an impressive thumping of the Eagles but his future in Minnesota is still in doubt.
MINNEAPOLIS -- If Leslie Frazier is in his final days as the Minnesota Vikings' coach, if he's soon to pay for the Vikings' fall to last place after their surprising 2012 playoff run, he's at least doing what he has done best.

Frazier took over the 2010 Vikings after ownership fired Brad Childress with the team at 3-7. He coaxed a 3-3 finish out of the team, even after the Metrodome roof collapsed, which forced the Vikings to move two home games. A snowstorm also forced them to play another game in Philadelphia on a Tuesday night. Frazier got the interim tag removed from his title after that season, and when Adrian Peterson tore his ACL on Christmas Eve, Frazier watched his young team grind out a road win in Washington. The Vikings fell from 4-1 to 6-6 last year, only to rally for four consecutive wins in December, clinching a playoff spot on their last play of the season.

Those rallies have earned Frazier praise from players for what he does best: preach unity and coax effort out of his team in the midst of adversity, and he looks like he might be in the middle of another impressive late-season run.

The Vikings are 3-2-1 in their past six games, and without Peterson, Toby Gerhart or their top three cornerbacks on Sunday, they scored their biggest win of the season in a 48-30 thumping of the Philadelphia Eagles. That might not be enough to save Frazier's job this time, especially in light of how much adversity the Vikings have created for themselves this season.

They have shuttled through three different quarterbacks, blown five last-minute leads and played some of the most statistically porous defense in the league. Since the Vikings were 1-7, rumors have been circulating about Frazier's future, about which candidates might line up to take his place, and Sunday was no different.

NFL Network cited team sources and sources familiar with the ownership's thinking who said Frazier's future was "grim," adding the Vikings likely would target a young NFL assistant with "star power." CBS Sports said the Vikings already have approached Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. Those two reports posit two different paths for the Vikings' next coach, and there are sure to be more theories about where the Vikings could go next between now and when -- or if -- the team parts with Frazier.

The coach effectively was put on notice when the Vikings decided to pick up his 2014 option -- not offer him a long-term contract extension -- after the team's 10-6 season in 2012. Though the Vikings have little stability at what might be the two most important spots in the modern NFL (quarterback and cornerback), they'd be atop the NFC North right now if they had been able to hang onto their late leads. And Sunday, again, called into question what might have been if the Vikings had stuck with Matt Cassel all season, rather than handing starts to Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder after Cassel's first -- and to date, only -- bad game.

"We made those decisions at the time for different reasons. We always felt good about Matt but there were some things we needed to see [from Freeman and Ponder]," Frazier said. "Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get wins when we were going through the process. That would have been a lot better. We knew why were doing it back then, so hindsight is always 20/20."

If one can make the case the Vikings could be in playoff contention with their current roster -- and it certainly appears that theory is valid -- then poor decision-making by coaches often leads to them taking the fall before front office people. It has always seemed possible that could happen in Minnesota, though team president Mark Wilf and general manager Rick Spielman would not comment on a report that Spielman has been told his job is safe for 2014.

While Frazier can't reverse those last-minute collapses or the quarterback decisions now, he can make one more statement about how good he has been at getting his teams to play their hardest. He made that statement again on Sunday, and if he can do it twice more, maybe he'll scrape together enough goodwill to save his job when the chances of him keeping it appear slim.

"I think a report is a report. When your team has four wins, it's going to happen," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "I have been with Leslie for seven years out of my eight in the NFL, so there are guys here that you create good bonds with that have done a great job coaching. It's not my decision to make one way or the other, but I appreciate the things they continue to do for us to put us in the best position to get wins."
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings team president Mark Wilf would not comment on the futures of general manager Rick Spielman or coach Leslie Frazier after the team's 48-30 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, saying the team's owners were "just going to enjoy the win and try to win out the season."

Frazier, who was not offered a contract extension after the Vikings went 10-6 and made the playoffs last season, is only signed through the 2014 season and was thought to be on the hot seat when the Vikings started the season 1-7. Team owner Zygi Wilf said after a loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 21 that "I'm sticking with our team" when asked about the prospect of in-season staff changes, and Wilf also declined to talk about the futures of Spielman and Frazier after the Vikings' stadium groundbreaking earlier this month.

A NFL Network report on Sunday morning said Frazier's future looked "grim," adding that Spielman had already been told he would return for the 2014 season. When asked about his future after the game on Sunday, Spielman said, "I'm not going to talk about anything."

When discussing Frazier's future during his mid-season news conference on Nov. 1, Spielman said, "We back coach Frazier 100 percent and we'll do everything we can to to help him get this thing turned around." When he was asked if Frazier might be let go during the season, Spielman said, "Leslie Frazier is not going anywhere. I am telling you that we are very committed to Leslie Frazier and this coaching staff."

The Vikings are now 3-2-1 in the second half of the season, but have blown last-minute leads in five games this year. Frazier said, though, that he's not looking at late-season wins as a way to make a statement about saving his job.

"We are approaching these ballgames like we did in September and October," Frazier said. "Nothing has changed for our team or myself. Those of you who know me in the press know that is not my mindset. We were focusing today on the Eagles and what we had to get done in this ballgame. We'll do the same thing next week."


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said on Friday that coach Leslie Frazier has the final call on who starts at quarterback for the 1-6 Vikings, and though he wouldn’t guarantee that Frazier will remain in his job for the rest of the season, he said Frazier “isn’t going anywhere.”

Spielman, speaking to reporters during a 45-minute state-of-the-team discussion at midseason, said the Vikings want to solidify their direction at quarterback by the end of the season, but reiterated the decision to sign Josh Freeman on Oct. 7 does not mean Christian Ponder is out of the team’s plans.

“If you’re not out there always looking and trying to find [a quarterback] until you actually find a Peyton Manning, then I feel you’re not doing your job,” Spielman said. “Our job is to be aggressive, to try and get that position solidified. Does that mean that Christian Ponder is not that [franchise quarterback]? I’m not saying that whatsoever.

“If he ends up being our starting quarterback, and you see him come on and see that he is playing consistently, then maybe he is the guy we’re going to go into the future with. But everybody tried to speculate that by bringing in Josh, this means Christian is done. That has nothing to do with anything. It was just an opportunity at a pretty critical position on your roster to take a look at some quality guys that are very young still for the position.”

The GM backed Frazier’s decision to start Freeman on Oct. 21 against the New York Giants, when Freeman went 20-of-53 for 195 yards after spending just two weeks in the system. He said he has “100 percent faith” in Frazier, and added he believes the Vikings have the pieces to get their season turned around.

Frazier, who led the Vikings from 3-13 in 2011 to 10-6 in 2012, is under contract through the 2014 season, but ownership decided to pick up the 2014 option in his deal rather than offer him a long-term extension after last season. That’s led to widespread speculation his job might be in jeopardy if the Vikings had a poor season.

Asked on Friday what would define a successful season, Spielman said, “Wins."

“We’re not in this business not to win. It’s just expected. You expect to go out and win and you expect to go out and win every week and that’s what this business is about, is getting wins.”

Spielman said, though, that he has no problems with the team’s effort on Sundays, and added that the team’s owners, Zygi and Mark Wilf, have expressed support for the organization’s direction in their conversations with him.

“They’re just like everyone. It’s been a rough start,” Spielman said. “But they’re in the same boat. We’re all in this together. We’re all supporting each other. And whatever roles we have in the organization, we’re going to work to try and get this thing turned around as quickly as we can. They’ve been very, very supportive.”
PHOENIX -- In January, the Minnesota Vikings picked up a one-year option on coach Leslie Frazier's contract rather than negotiate a long-term extension. When the move was announced in February, Frazier didn't hide his surprise and disappointment before pledging to push forward into the 2013 season.

Frazier
Here at the NFL owners meeting this week, I got a chance to speak with Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf about a number of topics, including Frazier's contract. I asked Wilf if he felt compelled to speak with Frazier or otherwise reiterate his support in light of public discussion about the implications of the decision.

Wilf said there has been ample communication on the issue, made clear the team's expectation is to win the NFC North in 2013 and strongly downplayed the possibility of opening negotiations during the season.

"We have a great relationship with coach Frazier," Wilf said. "We've had a lot of communicating back and forth on that. But now we're turning the page to the 2013 season and our focus is on, first, winning our division, which is a very tough division, and we want to get back to where we were a few years ago, and that's the top of our division. We know it's competitive, but that's our No. 1 focus. From there, hopefully it's our best opportunity for our ultimate goal, which is to win the championship."

I don't think that means an NFC North title will be required for Frazier to keep his job in 2014, but it's clear the Vikings want to see more than they saw last season. Asked if there was a possibility of addressing Frazier's contract during the season, as the Vikings did in 2009 with former coach Brad Childress, Wilf said: "Once the season goes, we're not discussing any contractual relationships or anything of that sort."

So one way or the other, the Vikings will face a franchise decision next offseason. There are no more options in Frazier's contract, meaning he is signed through 2014. Given most teams' reluctance to enter a season with a "lame duck" coach in the final year of his contract, the Vikings almost certainly will give Frazier an extension after the 2013 season or fire him. The stakes are as high for this franchise as they have been in a while.
PHOENIX -- We have a bit of business to address from the first official day of the NFL owners meeting.

As expected, the league's full ownership approved a $200 million "G-4" loan to the Minnesota Vikings' stadium financing plan. The money counts as part of the Vikings' private $477 million contribution to the $975 million project, and it is re-paid from the visiting team's share of club seat revenues in the new stadium. The loan is available to all teams who build new stadiums or do major renovations and does not impact the public's $498 million contribution.

The Vikings will play one final season in the Metrodome in 2013 before moving to TCF Bank Stadium for 2014 and 2015. The new stadium is expected to be ready in time for the 2016 season.

Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said negotiations are still underway on details of the stadium design, including whether there will be a retractable roof. The team also needs to reach a formal agreement with the University of Minnesota on use of the stadium, meaning that work required to make the structure NFL-ready will likely take place after the school's 2013 football schedule is completed.
Hi there. Things are going to be a little light on the blog for the next few days, but while I have a moment I wanted to make sure we're all clear on what Wednesday's contract news does and does not mean for Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.

Frazier
As you probably know, the Vikings have exercised a previously-undisclosed option year on Frazier's contract, meaning he is now signed through the 2014 season. To this point, according to Frazier's agent via the Star Tribune, there have been no negotiations on a true extension.

That's a mildly surprising development, mostly because no one knew the option year was a possibility. We all agreed that Frazier shouldn't enter 2013 in the final year of his contract, but before Wednesday it seemed the Vikings' only alternative was to offer him an extension.

The option was the most efficient way to avoid lame-duck status, but it is at best a measured vote of confidence. Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said in a statement that the team looks forward to working with Frazier "for many years to come," but that sentiment isn't reflected in contract terms.

To be clear, the Vikings have opted against rewarding Frazier for a 10-6 season. Instead, they committed to rendering judgment next year at this time. (Barring the existence of another hidden option, of course.) To avoid a lame-duck situation in 2014, they will need either to extend Frazier's contract or fire him after the 2013 season.

That makes 2013 another "prove-it" year for Frazier. Given the Vikings' 6-16 record in his first 22 games as coach, it's not a totally unreasonable approach. It might not be not a slap at Frazier, but it also isn't a hearty clap on the back for a job well done. If the Vikings were convinced that Frazier will be their coach "for many years to come," they would have signed him a commensurate deal now before his price rose after another presumably successful season in 2013.

It's a reminder that the NFL is a business, that leverage is usually applied when available and that nice guys don't necessarily get a break.
The Minnesota Vikings' architect selection for their new stadium, announced Friday morning, is revealing in at least one sense: Both NFL stadiums designed by the HKS Sports & Entertainment Group have retractable roofs.

Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf have indicated plans for some level of retractability in their new facility, scheduled to open at the Metrodome site for the 2016 season. The team would be responsible for the additional cost, believed to be at least $25 million, but the Wilfs see value in both game-day atmosphere and the possibility of luring a professional soccer team to the area.

HKS designed Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Both have retractable roofs, and the Colts have an end zone "window wall" that lowers as well.

HKS will reveal a preliminary design in early 2013.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good Monday morning to everyone. It doesn't get a whole lot bigger than the first week of organized team activities, or OTAs as we call them in the business, and that's exactly the point we've reached in the NFL offseason.

The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers have scheduled their first OTAs of the spring for Monday, and the Chicago Bears will have one Tuesday. The Minnesota Vikings will open OTAs a week from Tuesday. Over on our NFL Nation blog, we have a comprehensive schedule of all 32 team's OTA schedules.

For newcomers, OTAs are on-field practices without pads or (presumably) contact. Some are open to the media, so expect to see some coverage in the coming days of how your favorite players are performing in jerseys and shorts.

Before we move on to our morning roundup, I want to thank everyone for their feedback to Friday's post on our blog operations. If you missed the post and/or want to share further thoughts about what you like and don't like, by all means hit up the mailbag.

OK, now, continuing around the NFC North:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Because none of you have gotten your fill yet on the Minnesota Vikings' stadium story, I made a rare daytime appearance outside of NFC North blog headquarters for a visit with team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf.

I reported to the ESPN.com news desk that Mark Wilf hopes to begin the Super Bowl bidding for Super Bowl LI, which will be played about six months after the new facility opens for the 2016 season. The Wilfs made clear the team will play at least two more seasons, 2012 and 2013, in the Metrodome but that their 2014 plans could take a year to develop. (They will play the 2015 season at TCF Bank Stadium.)

But to me the most intriguing takeaway was what seems like a preference to outfit the stadium with a retractable roof.

The final stadium bill allows for that possibility if the Vikings pay for the upgrade, which could cost an additional $25 million to $100 million. It would enhance the Wilfs' hopes to draw a Major League Soccer team to the facility, but it would also mesh with Zygi Wilf's long-stated desire to capitalize on what he thinks would be the competitive advantage of outdoor games during the Minnesota fall and winter.

(I have no opinion on it as long as the press box is enclosed.)

Neither Wilf would commit to a retractable roof but here's what Mark Wilf said about it: "We're going to try to get the maximum number of features within the budgets that we can make this a facility that is going to be exciting to the fans. We know it's a competitive landscape to attract our fans to the facility and we're going to want to make it something special. To the extent that retractability can get there, we're going to try to do it."

It's worth noting that the Vikings' original plan for the suburban Arden Hills site included a retractable roof, one that would allow for the outdoor experience the Vikings once had at Metropolitan Stadium but also provide the flexibility to host games and events that require a roof, whether it is the Super Bowl or a Final Four or Grave Digger's next performance.

After I noted the possibility on Twitter earlier Friday, many of you asked about the rule at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Field that requires the roof to be closed when outside temperatures are lower than 40 degrees. All I can tell you is that the NFL's official rules on operating retractable roofs have no such requirements, at least not the set the league office forwarded to me Friday. The rules do, however, give the game-day referee the option to close the roof pregame because of precipitation or weather that is otherwise deemed hazardous.

You could have an interesting debate about the better home-field advantage: really cold weather with the roof open or presumably louder crowd noise with it shut. I don't know where the Vikings will land on that, and I'm not entirely convinced the Wilfs are prepared to kick in additional money for retractability after increasing their initial contribution to $477 million in the final negotiations this week. Just know it's very much on the table moving forward.
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Apparently, our next stop in sniffing out the Minnesota Vikings' true intentions this offseason is to make the dangerous connection between a stadium drive and football expenditures.

John of Belleview, Ill., is worried that the Vikings could become the "Kansas City Royals of football" for one of two reasons: Either owner Zygi Wilf will bring down his player payroll to limit further losses, or state legislators will require the team to pay so much toward construction that debt service will render moot the increased revenue of a new stadium.

Here's what I can tell you: Wilf has done nothing if not spend liberally on players during his first seven years as the team's majority owner. If my count is right, he has made five capital calls to his investment partners to cover the difference between revenues and his player payroll. In total, Wilf and his partners have pumped about nearly $100 million into the franchise on top of the $600-million purchase price.

And I feel confident in suggesting Wilf wouldn't have agreed to the current terms of his stadium proposal if it would have shortchanged his projected revenues.

There is no denying the Vikings have made but one significant free-agent expenditure, signing tight end John Carlson to a five-year contract worth $25 million. And I understand why Vikings fans would be suspicious given the blatant financial scaleback they endured in the final years of previous owner Red McCombs' tenure.

But if the Vikings have made a shift, it's one of philosophy rather than finances, general manager Rick Spielman said here at the NFL owners meetings.

Spielman: "Our ownership has always been very supportive of what we need to do, getting players and things like that. I think that doesn't have any effect on whether we're going to sign or not sign a player."

Owner/president Mark Wilf echoed that sentiment: "It's a long-term process in terms of building through the draft, filling in through free agency, and that combination is something we wanted to structure the organization to have our best chance at long-term success. … We want to win right away, too, but the main thing is we want to be first-rate and first-class on a consistent basis."

I realize that no team official would admit to a financial scaleback, but in Wilf's case, we have seven years of free spending and one offseason of a longer-term view. It doesn't add up to anything sinister for me.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- While I was scurrying this way and that Monday at the NFL owners meetings, Chicago Bears president Ted Phillips was addressing the future of tailback Matt Forte with Chicago-area reporters. As you know, Forte did not react well to the signing of backup Michael Bush and apparently there have been low-level trade rumors as a result because he has not yet signed his franchise tender.

Coach Lovie Smith threw water on the fire Sunday in a conversation with ESPN's Rachel Nichols, and via Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, Phillips said: "Matt is going to be a Bear." Phillips added: "Our goal with Matt is to keep him a Bear as long as possible. We have made offers on long-term deals that we think reward him at a high level, the level he deserves. We haven't been able to reach common ground. The door is open to keep talking. If we get a deal done, we'll be happy. If we don't, then the deal we have is the franchise tag and we'll see what happens after this year."

The remaining piece of this puzzle is the value of the long-term deal Forte has turned down. As a result, we don't know if the dispute is based on a lowball offer from the Bears or an inflated value Forte has established for himself. But obviously the sides are nowhere close at the moment, and the question shifts to whether Forte will play under the terms of the $7.74 million franchise tag or if he will stay away from training camp when it opens in July.

Continuing around the NFC North:
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Minnesota Vikings need approval from two political entities to get approval for their $975 million stadium project. They cleared one Monday, and have now set their sights on the second.

News that a majority of the Minneapolis City Council supports the plan might qualify as the best news in the team's decade-long pursuit of a new facility. It establishes political support from a previously divided group and shifts the focus squarely on the Minnesota state legislature, whose leaders were awaiting city approval before considering the bill on a state level.

Stopping for a moment here at the NFL owners meetings, Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said: "The city support was critical in advancing this at the legislature." I know we've seen plenty of fits and starts in this process, but I agreed with Vikings vice president of stadium development Lester Bagley when he said: "This was a critical component to move forward. It was very significant."

The 2012 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn next month, but Wilf said the team remains confident there is enough time to address the stadium proposal. If nothing, skittish state legislators will have one less excuse for delaying an extended hearing on the issue.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Oakland Raiders' apparent decision to hire Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen as their head coach will result in some stability among the Green Bay Packers' coaching staff.

Packers assistant head coach/inside linebackers Winston Moss and defensive coordinator Dom Capers were both candidates in the Raiders' job search, which was run by former Packers executive Reggie McKenzie, now the Raiders' general manager. Moss had been considered by many media members to be a favorite for the job, but McKenzie conducted a wide search.

To this point, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is the only assistant to depart the staff. Philbin is the Miami Dolphins' new head coach. Coach Mike McCarthy hasn't announced a replacement yet. Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements remains a candidate for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head-coaching job.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "It might be a little premature to declare Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy out of the woods completely, but any predictions about his staff being ravaged by outsiders seem to be overblown."
  • Former Packers coach Mike Holmgren doesn't wonder what might have happened if he had stayed with the team rather than bolt for the Seattle Seahawks. Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has more.
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will meet Wednesday with Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf to discuss the Metrodome stadium site. Mike Kaszuba of the Star Tribune details the political infighting currently in play on that site.
  • Vikings general manager Rick Spielman allowed four reporters to sit in on an interview with Auburn long-snapper Josh Harris at the Senior Bowl. Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has more.
  • The Vikings plan to find more work for running back Toby Gerhart, regardless of Adrian Peterson's health, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
  • Detroit Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. spoke positively in rare public comments about the team. Tom Walsh of the Detroit Free Press has more.
  • Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is sitting out the Pro Bowl because of an Achilles injury, but he is still heading to Hawaii this week and is bringing the Lions' entire receiving corps, notes Dave Birkett of the Free Press.
  • Two Lions assistant coaches, Tim Walton (secondary) and Shawn Jefferson (receivers) are close to signing new contracts to stay with the team, according to Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
  • ESPNChicago.com has a rundown of Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher's comments on using the pain-killer Toradol.
  • Urlacher expanded on those comments with Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli endorsed his director of college scouting, Phil Emery, for the Bears' general manager job. Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times explains.
  • The Bears' new general manager will have the flexibility to change as much of the scouting staff as he wants. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the team's six college scouts and three pro scouts all have expiring contracts.

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