Notebook: Hutchinson explains NFLPA thinking

Steve Hutchinson said a pregame gesture to denote player solidarity wasn't a slight against fans, but he doesn't believe most fans realize the serious state of affairs when it comes to negotiating an extension for the collective bargaining agreement. Plus, the regular-season opener brought out some interesting stats.

The Vikings and Saints kicked off the NFL's regular season one week ago, and a gesture before kickoff was meant to show the seriousness of the upcoming labor negotiations between two other rivals – the NFL Players Association and the NFL.

After the National Anthem last Thursday, players on both sidelines took a couple steps onto the field and raised their index finger as a sign of solidarity. Several other teams followed suit in Sunday's games, but the move did not go over as well with fans in Houston before the game between the Texans and Colts.

Fans there booed the move.

"I thought I overhead that. I don't know what could be misconstrued as being any kind of negativity toward the fans. I don't know if they just misunderstood what that was supposed to mean," said Steve Hutchinson, the Vikings' player representative to the union. "Maybe they thought that was a different finger being stuck up there. I don't know. But from a players' standpoint, I know our way of thinking in the game Thursday night was just to show everyone who cares to put their two cents in about it that we are one as a players association."

Players and executives from the union came up with the idea a few days before the Vikings-Saints game and thought the show of solidarity would be a good idea, "especially for that game because it did have a Super Bowl atmosphere type, where everybody is watching on the big Kickoff Weekend," Hutchinson said. "It had enough of a following that that would be a good game to do it. I don't know if the other games were just kind of to continue that, which was a good idea."

The move isn't expected to be a weekly occurrence, Hutchinson said, but he certainly wasn't optimistic about the current state of affairs between the NFLPA and NFL when it comes to working out an extension to the collective bargaining agreement, which expires after this season.

Hutchinson said a lockout is looming, but he doesn't think most fans realize how serious the situation has grown for those who love NFL football.

"I don't think the majority of the fan base really understands how serious it is yet. They probably would just think, ‘Well, they'll get it ironed out,' which hopefully that's what we feel as well," he said. "The reality of it is, there's been no real try of negotiation at the table, so we have to assume that they're aiming for a lockout."

There are several major issues the two sides will have to negotiate. The owners opted out of the CBA for several reasons – they believe the players were getting too big a percentage of the overall revenues of teams and that is limiting the franchise's abilities to pay off stadium debt and the league's ability to grow the game. Then there is the 18-game schedule the league would like to enact, as well as limiting rookie salaries.

"That isn't the main focus, but rookie salaries are one of the topics we want to bring up in the negotiations," Hutchinson said. "I think there's a way to do it, where more money would go to veterans in the form of performance-based pay and then some of the money going towards retired players as well."

Right now, NFL fans might just want to take a cue from former Vikings coach Mike Tice and "enjoy the season," because there appears to be plenty of off-the-field frustration on the horizon.

STATS TO CHEW ON

Elias Sport Bureau, the league's official statistician service, had a few intriguing notes following the Vikings' regular-season opener:

  • The Vikings ran eight offensive plays in the fourth quarter – all passes – limiting Adrian Peterson's effectiveness. "It was only the second time in his NFL career that Peterson played in a game but did not have a single carry in a quarter in which, throughout the quarter, neither team led by more than eight points (in other words, it was a close game, a one-possession game, throughout the quarter)," Elias noted. The only other such game was a 19-13 loss in Tampa in 2008.

  • The competition between Chris Johnson and Peterson is already seeing some distance. Peterson had a solid opener with 87 yards, but Johnson broke out with a 142-yard game, second-best for opening weekend this year. Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards last year. Of the 51 players who have gained more than 1,500 yards in a season, only three have gained as many yards as Johnson in the season opener the following year, according to Elias. Peterson is one of them. They are: Barry Sanders (1,500 in 1995 and 163 in the 1996 opener), Clinton Portis (1,591 yards in 2003 and 148 in 2004 season opener), and Peterson (1,760 yards in 2008 and 180 in 2009 season opener).

  • The Saints' 14-9 win over the Vikings made it 11 straight season-opening wins for the defending Super Bowl champions, including the last seven, when those teams were given a home game on the Thursday night opener.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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