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10 things to know about the Vikings stadium situation

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With the situation in Minnesota going from simmer to full boil over the past few days, and with Commissioner Roger Goodell and Steelers owner Art Rooney II, chair of the league’s stadium committee, planning to meet with legislative leaders on Friday, now is as good a time as any to get up to speed regarding a controversy that could result in a relocation of the Vikings, only a year after the 50th anniversary of their arrival to the NFL.

So here are 10 things to know, in a question-and-answer format.  (Why do it that way?  Because we want to.)

What’s wrong with the Metrodome?

It has been regarded as a given for years that the Metrodome is outdated, and that it can’t be modernized in a manner that unlocks the high-end revenue streams that will keep the Vikings competitive with other franchises.  Even though the Vikings have used the 30-year-old stadium roughly 300 times, the team believes that renovation isn’t an option.  No effort to contradict that claim has ever gained any serious traction in Minnesota.

Didn’t I read last month about a deal to build a new stadium?

You did.  But the agreement for a “People’s Stadium” represented only an understanding between the team, Governor Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and legislative leaders.  The deal calls for a $975 million facility, which would be built with $398 million from the state, $150 million from Minneapolis, and $427 million from the Vikings.  It still needs to be approved by the Legislature, and by the Minneapolis City Council.  For now, the proposed stadium bill died in a House committee on Monday night, and it has seen no progress at all in the Minnesota Senate.

The Vikings’ reaction to the current failure of the bill to even get a full legislative vote — the team says “there is no next year” — and the NFL’s direct involvement in negotiations represent a last-ditch effort to revive the deal that previously was reached.

What are the Vikings’ options?

If the stadium bill fails, the Vikings have to decide whether to try again, perhaps with a greater private contribution and/or a cheaper stadium.  If, as it appears, they aren’t inclined to try, owner Zygi Wilf can then try to move the team to a new city, sell the team to someone who would later apply for permission to move the team, or sell the team to someone who would keep the team in Minnesota.

Relocation could occur, with league approval, because the Vikings currently have no lease at the Metrodome.  In fact, if a decision to relocate after 2012 comes soon, the impact on the relationship between Minnesota and the Vikings could make it difficult for the Vikings and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to work out a one-year lease.  And no one at this point knows what would happen next.

Since there’s no lease, can the Vikings just pick up and move?

No.  Art Modell tried that in 1995, creating a huge mess that resulted in the Browns names and colors and records being left in Cleveland and a commitment to an expansion franchise.  The Vikings already are following the steps outlined in the league’s relocation policy, which requires a team to “diligently [engage] in good faith efforts” to “obtain a satisfactory resolution of its stadium needs” before informing the league of the existence of a “stalemate.”

The fact that the league directly is involved in the negotiations suggests that the Vikings have indeed informed the league that a “stalemate” exists.  If the situation can’t be resolved, the Vikings can then provide formal notice of an intention to relocate, sparking a process that could eventually culminate in a vote by the full ownership.  If 24 of the 32 owners agree, the move will be approved.

Along the way, the other owners would impose a transfer fee on the Vikings, which would be recommended by the Commissioner based on factors like the income streams in the new location, the income streams in the old location, the expenses in the new and old location, the differences between the new and old stadium, the demographics of the new and old markets.  It’s believed that a relocation to Los Angeles would result in a nine-figure transfer fee.

Would the Vikings leave behind the team name, logos, colors, and records?

Probably not.  As mentioned above, the deal to keep the Browns in Cleveland resulted from Art Modell’s unconventional, unilateral effort to move.  Also, the NFL planned to expand from 30 to 32 teams at the time the Browns moves to Baltimore.  The NFL currently doesn’t plan to expand, especially not in North America.

Most important, Minnesota wouldn’t get an expansion team without a new stadium.  And the reluctance to build a new stadium is what could cause the Vikings to leave.  So if they’re not going to build a new stadium now, there’s no reason to think they’ll do it later.

In other words, no matter how poorly the nickname may fit with the team’s next location, the Vikings will most likely remain the Vikings.

Why have the Vikings suddenly become so aggressive about possibly moving?

The Vikings had practiced patience for years.  Some think that the “Minnesota Nice” approach was selected under the theory that it would work better than a more blunt, matter-of-fact, anti-Field of Dreams “if you don’t build it, we will leave” strategy.  Others believe the Vikings simply wanted the media to do the team’s dirty work, reading the tea leaves and supplying the “or else” without the team having to do it.

The truth is that the language of the relocation policy, which expressly requires good-faith efforts to resolve the situation, forced the Vikings to try to get a new stadium deal without making threats or being unreasonable.  But to the extent that folks in Minnesota government believe that the Vikings haven’t taken a strong stand because they’ll eventually kick more and more (and more) money onto the table until the two circles of the Venn diagram kiss, a league source with knowledge of the dynamics explained to PFT on Thursday that Zygi Wilf, a successful real estate developer, can’t afford to cave when dealing with a public body; if he does, the public bodies with whom he routinely deals in other contexts will pounce on that high-profile show of weakness.

Why does the NFL build new stadiums with public money?

Because it can.

Some call it leverage.  Others call it extortion.  As NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman told PFT Live on Thursday, the league regards it as competition.

Regardless, if one place won’t kick in significant public money to keep the NFL, someone else will kick in significant public money to get the NFL, either directly through cash contributions or indirectly through tax credits and other incentives.  Or through that Private Seat Licenses and/or higher ticket prices that a larger metropolitan area has the population density (i.e., enough really rich people) to support.

Notwithstanding the label applied, it’s a basic business reality of dealing with the most popular sports league in America.  With 32 teams and little or no chances at expansion, places that don’t have an NFL team but that want an NFL team will have to target an NFL team that already has a home.

Should public money be used to build NFL stadiums?

That’s for the people of a given city/state and their elected representatives to decide.  Public money gets spent on all sorts of things.  Sometimes, it’s a good investment.  Sometimes, it isn’t.

The presence of the NFL carries with it prestige and national legitimacy, along with an influx in local hotel, parking, and restaurant revenue on game days.  If that’s important to a given area and public money is necessary to make that happen, then the use of public money can be justified — especially if the facility will attract non-football events like concerts and conventions and a Final Four and other major activities.

Would a new Vikings stadium host a Super Bowl?

Probably, but the NFL can’t commit to that in advance.  Only the owners can award Super Bowls; that said, a habit has emerged over the past 35 years.  A new domed stadium (or an open-air venue in a warm-weather location . . . or New Jersey) results in a Super Bowl, if the city otherwise has the infrastructure to host the event (or, in the case of Jacksonville, even if it doesn’t).  The Metrodome hosted Super Bowl XXVI, the Silverdome and Ford Field in Detroit each got a Super Bowl.  Most recently, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI.

The money and the prestige coming from the hosting of a Super Bowl would help justify a large chunk of the public money devoted to the project, if the people in Minnesota choose to do that.

Where is this heading?

At this point, it’s unclear.  But the NFL and the Vikings will push for an answer now, before the current legislative sessions ends.  And the league and the team are prepared to interpret no answer as a “no” answer.

The biggest problem with the current deal arises from the effort to avoid the Minneapolis City Charter, which requires a public vote for any contribution in excess of $10 million to a sports facility.  The House committee that recently killed the deal was troubled by the apparent circumvention of the charter provision.  Even if the stadium bill becomes law and the Minneapolis City Council officially signs off on the plan, any taxpayer in Minneapolis could challenge in court the funding mechanism as a failure to comply with the charter.

And so, just as the Governor and the Mayor of Minneapolis and the legislative leaders underestimated the willingness of the Legislature to reject their deal now, the folks who came up with this plan possibly have given too little consideration to the possibility that a judge could kill it later.

The simple reality seems to be that the people in Minnesota either don’t want to kick in enough money to get it done, or they don’t realize that the NFL is serious about leaving.  If it’s the former, that’s their prerogative.  If it’s the latter, they need to wake up, now.

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X-rays negative for Leonard Williams

Leonard Williams AP

Leonard Williams left Saturday night’s preseason game against the New York Giants after suffering a knee injury in the first half.

However, it appears as though the injury isn’t all that serious for the New York Jets’ first-round pick.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, X-rays came back negative on Williams knee. The thought is Williams suffered only a bone bruise but he will still have an MRI on Sunday.

Williams was considered by some as the best overall player in the 2015 draft class. With Sheldon Richardson set to miss the start of the season to suspension, Williams will be a pivotal piece in the Jets defensive line rotation.

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After first-half shouting match, Jay Gruden, John Harbaugh shake hands to end game

John Harbaugh AP

Lost in the ejection of Ravens receiver Steve Smith and Washington cornerback Chris Culliver for fighting was the fact that Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Washington coach Jay Gruden exchanged verbal pleasantries in the first half of Saturday’s game.

The exchange appeared to include Harbaugh angrily directing a four-letter, F-driven profanity at Gruden as the two yelled at each other on the field.

By the time the game ended, there was no reprise of the notorious Jim Harbaugh/Jim Schwartz moment from 2011, and neither coach asked the other, “What’s your deal?

The two coaches simply shook hands and moved on, with no further fireworks or F-bombs. Unfortunately, the two teams won’t play each other again this season unless they meet in the Super Bowl.

Yeah, I was giggling as I typed that, and not because of the quality of the team Harbaugh coaches.

Meanwhile, we’d pay a lot of money to see a tag-team match between Jay and Jon Gruden and John and Jim Harbaugh. Hopefully with everyone keeping his shirt on.

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Seahawks starting offense still without a TD drive in preseason

Russell Wilson AP

The Seattle Seahawks acquired Jimmy Graham this offseason with the hopes that he would open up their offensive attack.

But through three preseason games, the Seahawks starting offense has been unable to find the end zone.

Seattle played their starters into the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers on Saturday night. However, Russell Wilson and the offense managed just two field goals and 137 yards of offense in six possessions against the Chargers.

Wilson has led 12 drives for the Seahawks with just four field goals to show for it. They are averaging just 20.5 yards gained per possession.

The only touchdowns Seattle has scored in the preseason have come on a pick-six by Bobby Wagner, two return touchdowns by Tyler Lockett and a touchdown pass from R.J. Archer to running back Thomas Rawls.

The offensive line has been a major reason for the struggles. They haven’t started the same five linemen in any of their three preseason games and Wilson has lacked time to throw. Also, Marshawn Lynch played just three plays so far this preseason. His presence significantly changes Seattle’s offensive dynamic.

Nevertheless, Wilson has not been sharp. He’s completed 17 of 31 passes for just 146 yards in three games and been more inaccurate than normal.

It’s the preseason. It’s not something to get bent out of shape about at this stage. However, in the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, Seattle’s offense is still searching for production and consistency.

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Philip Rivers bangs throwing hand, says “it’s good”

Philip Rivers, Mike Morgan AP

During the first half of a Week Three preseason game against a blitz-happy Seahawks defense, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers banged his throwing hand.

In the third quarter, Rivers told Tracy Wolfson of CBS that the hand recently used to sign a gigantic contract is fine.

“It’s good,” he said of the right hand, adding that he’d still be playing if it were a regular-season game.

Rivers has a habit of playing through injuries — injuries that sometimes haven’t been disclosed. As former Chargers center Nick Hardwick told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio earlier this year, Rivers probably has had more injuries that we don’t know about than injuries that we do know about.

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MRI coming on Mike Pouncey’s knee

Minnesota Vikings v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The aftermath of Saturday night’s preseason game in Miami includes another injury to one of the Pouncey twins.

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey broke an ankle last week against the Packers; Dolphins center Mike Pouncey emerged from a contest against the Falcons with his left knee in a brace.

Via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Pouncey will have an MRI in the morning. However, he says he’s “not too worried about it.”

Here’s a big reason for him to not be worried: In April, the team extended his contract, giving him plenty of financial security in the event of a potentially serious injury. Absent the extension, he would have been in a contract year.

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Rex Ryan “probably” will pick his Week One starter on Sunday

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The time has come for Bills coach Rex Ryan to pick a starting quarterback. The time to disclose that decision, however, has yet to arrive.

Following Saturday’s preseason game against the Steelers, Ryan said he will “probably” decide on a starting quarterback on Sunday.

‘We’ll make the decision, but we’ll not announce it,” Ryan told reporters.

The decision between Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, and Tyrod Taylor apparently won’t be easy.

“I talked about the problem I wanted, I think I got it,” Ryan said. “But to me it’s not a problem it’s a — you know, all three guys had a tremendous preseason and that’s all you can ask. I think we’ll address it at the appropriate time, but obviously I feel really good about all the quarterbacks.”

The decision won’t be simply Ryan’s; it will be an organizational assessment.

“The team, the team, and the team,” Ryan said. “Those three things and that’s what it’s gonna be based on. Have I had discussions with [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman? Absolutely. Have I had discussions with [G.M.] Doug Whaley, with [owner] Terry Pegula, with whoever? Absolutely. Has there been a collaborative deal? We are meeting tomorrow to discuss our roster, we’ve got to make cuts getting down to the 75 and there’s gonna be some tough cuts to make there, let alone getting to the 53. So that’s when we’ll have the, but the decision will be made and then we’ll move forward.

The only thing we know for now is that Matt Simms won’t be the Week One starter. But Simms will be starting in Week Four of the preseason. Ryan said he hopes to have Simms play the entire game.

After that, Ryan will hope to keep his decision for the next game, against the Colts, quiet for as long as possible.

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Micah Hyde carted off at Lambeau Field

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The decision to keep Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of Saturday night’s preseason game is looking better and better.

Green Bay cornerback Micah Hyde has been carted off at Lambeau Field during the second quarter of the preseason game against the Eagles.

The nature of the injury isn’t clear. Hyde was sitting upright as TV cameras spotted him being taken to the locker room.

Earlier in the game, receiver Randall Cobb exited with a shoulder injury.

A fifth-round pick in 2013, Hyde has appeared in all 32 career regular-season games. He started 12 games in 2014.

UPDATE 9:35 p.m. ET: The Packers say that Hyde has suffered a neck injury.

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Tyler Lockett gives Seattle special teams a boost

Tyler Lockett, Steven Nelson AP

Last year at this time, the Seahawks didn’t have a punt-return specialist. So they let starting safety Earl Thomas give it a try to start the season.

It didn’t go to well.

This year, the Seahawks have invested a third-round pick in receiver Tyler Lockett, who instantly has become the return man for punts and kickoffs. And it’s going very well.

Moments ago, Lockett returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown against the Chargers, showing agility and acceleration as he changed directions and eventually found a lane to the outside that allowed him to rocket to the end zone.

Fifteen days ago, Lockett returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown against the Broncos, on a play that included coach Pete Carroll being wiped out by an official as both ran along the sideline.

“He looks like we hoped he would look,” Carroll said after the August 14 game. “We drafted him with the thought that he might give us a real spark in an area that we wanted to find a way to improve and be more dynamic.”

For a team with plenty of strengths, Lockett could be giving them another one, for both kickoffs and punts.

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Browns rookie Duke Johnson debuts, leaves with concussion

Duke Johnson AP

After missing nearly three weeks of camp due to a sore hamstring, Browns rookie running back Duke Johnson was in the starting lineup for his preseason debut Saturday night at Tampa Bay.

After one carry for four yards and one catch for one yard, Johnson’s preseason is over. Johnson took a big hit from Bucs cornerback Mike Jenkins while trying to catch a second-quarter pass from Josh McCown. He jogged off the field and met with team medical staff on the sideline before being taken to the locker room.

Early in the second half, the Browns confirmed that both Johnson and second-year cornerback Pierre Desir had suffered concussions.

Johnson got the start in his first preseason action, but Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West also played on the first series. Neither West nor Crowell has had an especially strong camp, leaving the starting job up for grabs as the Browns shift into regular-season mode. Both West and Crowell carried seven times Saturday night; West got 26 yards and Crowell had 25.

Desir has had a solid preseason and probably played his way into the rotation at cornerback, but the Browns have secondary depth issues due to injury. Struggling 2014 first-round pick Justin Gilbert hasn’t practiced in two weeks due a hip flexor, and nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams also missed Saturday’s game.

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Another solid showing by Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater AP

Teddy Bridgewater’s preseason work is probably done, and it will soon be forgotten. But Bridgewater made the most of limited opportunities — and looked good doing it.

The second-year Vikings quarterback completed all seven passes he attempted Saturday night vs. the Cowboys for 76 total yards. He completed 83 percent in short work — 29 completions in 35 attempts — over four preseason games.

Bridgewater threw just one touchdown but had no interceptions in the preseason and looked very much in command of an offense that’s set to welcome Adrian Peterson back for the Sept. 13 opener.

If Bridgewater keeps ascending and Peterson returns to form, the Vikings could be a dangerous offense once the real season gets rolling.

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Randall Cobb exits with shoulder injury

Green Bay Packers v New England Patriots Getty Images

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers can’t get hurt in Saturday night’s game against the Eagles because he’s not playing. The same can’t be said for receiver Randall Cobb.

Six days after receiver Jordy Nelson was lost for the season with a torn ACL in a preseason game against the Steelers, Cobb has suffered an apparent shoulder injury at Lambeau Field.

He has gone to the locker room for evaluation. Stay tuned for updates as they become available.

Meanwhile, the Eagles continue to clobber 2014 playoff teams in the 2015 preseason. Philly leads Green Bay 18-0.

UPDATE 8:40 p.m. ET: Via Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com, the Packers have announced that Cobb indeed has a shoulder injury.

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Steve Smith, Chris Culliver ejected for fighting

Steve Smith AP

Things got heated tonight in Baltimore, with multiple personal fouls, lots of pushing and shoving, yelling and screaming and two ejections.

The two ejected players were Baltimore receiver Steve Smith and Washington cornerback Chris Culliver. They went at it in an incident that started when Washington’s Keenan Robinson tackled Baltimore’s Kamar Aiken by driving him into the ground, face-first. Several Baltimore players and coaches took issue with what they saw as a cheap shot from Robinson.

Smith, one of the NFL’s most fiery competitors, found himself in the middle of the ensuing melee, and he and Culliver both got kicked out of the game. Other players were flagged for offsetting personal fouls, and there will likely be multiple fines coming next week.

Both head coaches, Jay Gruden and John Harbaugh, were angrily yelling during and after the skirmish, and they appeared to be yelling across the field at each other. It may only be the preseason, but there’s some intensity in Baltimore.

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Dalton leaves game with neck injury

Andy Dalton AP

For some reason, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson called three running plays for Andy Dalton on the opening drive of Saturday night’s preseason game vs. the Bears.

After the third, a quarterback sneak, Dalton left the game with what the team called a neck injury. He was examined on the sideline by trainers and then remained on the sideline but didn’t return to the game. At halftime, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Dalton is fine and taking him out of the game was a precautionary measure.

A.J. McCarron took over at quarterback with most of the rest of the first-team offense.

Dalton completed all six of his passes for 52 yards and totaled 16 yards on the three runs.

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Jets’ Leonard Williams limps to the locker room

Leonard Williams

Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams exited early during tonight’s preseason game with the Giants.

Williams limped to the locker room with a member of the team’s training staff. The team said Williams suffered a knee injury and was questionable to return.

The Jets felt like they got a steal when Williams was still available when they picked at No. 6 overall. Williams had an excellent college career at USC and was considered by some observers to be the best player in this year’s draft..

Williams has looked good so far in the preseason and will be extremely important early in the regular season when starting defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson is serving a suspension.

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Aaron Rodgers won’t play tonight

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently lobbied for the reduction of the preseason by a couple of games, after the season-ending knee injury suffered by receiver Jordy Nelson in a meaningless exhibition last Sunday against the Steelers. While the preseason hasn’t officially been reduced (and likely won’t be absent an increase in the regular season), Rodgers as a practical matter has made it shrink, for him.

Per multiple reports, Rodgers won’t play in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Eagles. It’s an unusual move, given that the third preseason game routinely is treated like a dress rehearsal of the start of the regular season, with starters playing into the second half.

It’s a smart move, given that Rodgers surely is ready to go for Week One. Indeed, more and more NFL starters are likely prepared for games that could without going onto the field and risking injury in games that don’t. Long gone are the days when the offseason truly was an offseason; players now stay in shape and work on their craft throughout the calendar year.

While some view exposing key players to the risk of serious injury in games that don’t matter as a cost of doing business, business can still be done without assuming that risk. Of course, that may not be good for the NFL’s business of getting people to care about preseason games. However, fans should be care only to the extent that they’re holding their breath until players like Rodgers have escaped these meaningless games without a meaningful strain, sprain, tear, or break.

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