EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Red McCombs is no longer in charge of
the Minnesota Vikings, but he still feels like they're his team.
After signing off Tuesday on his $600 million sale of the
franchise to a group headed by New Jersey real estate developer
Zygi Wilf, McCombs gushed about his seven-year stint as the team's
McCombs, speaking on a conference call from his San Antonio
office, reminded reporters that all the offseason moves made by
Minnesota were completed under his watch. After adding at least
five new starters on defense, the Vikings could be a legitimate
Super Bowl contender.
"To me, this year -- this will be my team, regardless of the
fact that we're totally out of ownership," he said. "It's obvious
that we were involved in putting this team together."
But Wilf, who was unavailable for comment, will now be calling
the shots. The sale -- approved unanimously by NFL owners on May 25
-- closed late Monday, and McCombs spoke with Wilf Tuesday morning.
Before addressing the media, McCombs characterized his
conversation in this statement:
"I committed my continuing lifetime interest in the Vikings and
again welcomed him and his partners into the Vikings family. I have
every reason to believe his ownership will mark new highlights for
the Vikings. I expressed to Mr. Wilf that the Vikings' fans are the
backbone of the franchise and I know all Vikings fans will welcome
his ownership group with the same enthusiasm they extended to me
and my family."
Beneath the front office, it's been business as usual since
McCombs first met with Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler -- now a
limited investor -- in April 2004.
Coach Mike Tice is scheduled to meet with Wilf's brother, Mark,
on Wednesday and with Wilf on Thursday.
"I think they're excited to be a part of what we have right
now. I certainly know I would be," said Tice, a native New Yorker
who's excited about the addition of another East Coast guy to the
Though McCombs' constant cost-cutting and unwillingness, until
this year, to spend much on the free-agent market was a frustration
for several members of the organization, this sounds like an
amicable split. The team even distributed a list of highlights from
the past seven seasons with McCombs in charge.
"I wish we could've won a championship for him, a division
title," Tice said. "Those things are coming."
McCombs said he wasn't surprised when Fowler was replaced by
Wilf as the general partner this spring, but that he didn't
anticipate the league's concern about Fowler's worth.
"A lot of us at times feel like we're a lot more liquid than
others see us," McCombs said. "And when the NFL did their
examination, they took a little different view of it."
Always a hands-on owner, McCombs -- before insisting he's not
disappointed to leave a team that looks poised to become one of the
NFL's best -- said he doubted Tice's pledge to make the Vikings into
more of a power-running team.
"I don't think Mike's going to listen to me on what I think he
should be doing, but when you've got a quarterback like (Daunte
Culpepper) who is right at the absolute peak of his career, and you
have a receiving corps like we have there, I think we're going to
see a lot of balls in the air.
"I'd be surprised if we didn't. I'd be disappointed if we