Lurtsema's Reaction: Stadium and Free Agency

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema weighs in with what he's learned about the Vikings' pursuit of a new stadium after NFL officials visited Minnesota, and the old Benchwarmer offers a quick take or two on free agency.

VU: What are you hearing and what are your impressions of the Vikings' chances of getting any kind of discussion going on the stadium this legislative session?

BL: The stadium issue, especially with the recession coming in, is really a touchy subject – more so than it has been previously. But they do have to address it. Being on the board of advisors for the Vikings, they did have the stadium commission people from the National Football League speak at our function, and it was rather interesting how they felt about a new stadium. They really didn't imply moving, but they did break everything down financially and it put the Vikings not in a great light as far as staying here if a new stadium was not built. What I'm saying in a long-about way is that they really have to get one. The average person I don't think really breaks everything down financially, but from the big picture, it is a great decision to bring in a new stadium. You know I love Zygi Wilf and he's got that passion for football. He wants that outdoor stadium and I really think it's going to have to be a domed stadium so they can be multi-purpose.

VU: It seems the retractable roof makes the most sense. If you're going to spend $700 million, you might as well spend $950 million and make it a retractable roof that can be used year-round.

BL: If I was Zygi, I would address it so that you can get a retractable for the NCAA basketball tournament, which we have had in the past. Because they had over 300 events in the Metrodome last year, it's a great community place as far as helping high schools with their tournaments to different events for some of the charity events and fundraisers they have there. You have to subtract 81 events for baseball with the new Twins stadium, so the real figure you're looking at there is 220, but I'm sure they'd fill some of those. That's the big picture. But if Zygi wants that open-air, which I totally agree with, just write it in that we'll get a retractable roof never to be used by the Vikings during the regular season.

Now people are going to laugh at that statement, but football is meant to be played outdoors and I think the fans want to be outdoors. If it's too cold, who wants to get soft and go into a different environment? I always thought when you're tailgating, it's always tough if you have a couple of pops outside at 10 o'clock and then you walk inside and have it 70 degrees and a controlled environment – it does hit a few of the fans right between the eyes in a rather staggering way. That part about being outdoors, I'm with Zygi all the way on that, but you've got to be flexible and have a little give in there. The cost of that top has gone up over $30 million in the last two years, so that kind of blows my mind. Right now, I really think if they do some heavy negotiating now, with as many people as are unemployed at this time, I think they can cut back and save upwards of $50 million or more because of the recession and the interest rates.

VU: Obviously the economic climate right now isn't great, and it doesn't look like it will be taken too seriously in the legislature this year. Do you get the feeling that next year they've got to get heard or there will be more momentum or talk about moving?

BL: The three teams they talk about, I believe, are Buffalo, Jacksonville and the Vikings as far as moving. I feel more honest by stating that they are not going to move the Vikings. They are not going to break up the North Division. The Chicago rivalry, the Packers rivalry, that's been going on since Day One. Then Detroit. Who are you going to bring into that threesome? I know in my heart that the NFL learned something from the Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts. I played in Baltimore in 1966 and I know the way it was and the whole situation of how they absolutely loved their team. I just feel that's a bluff. The Baltimore fans, they were scarred. Sure, the Ravens won everything, but it's not the same. They've lost a lot of fans, they truly have. It's coming back and I know they won the Super Bowl there, but if you look at the real heart and core of the National Football League, it would be devastating. Just work it out. I'm a Dutchman, so I say put a Dutchman in there and go get those bids and watch how much money you can actually save.

VU: On to free agency. You saw that Alge Crumpler, the brother of former Vikings tight end Carlester Crumpler, got released by Atlanta. Do you think that the Vikings are locked in at tight end because of the contract they gave Visanthe Shiancoe or do you think they might pursue Alge Crumpler?

BL: Why would the Falcons not try to trade him if he's that good? I don't think the Vikings should do anything there unless you get a new quarterback. I really feel strong about that. Everybody is asking me about the draft choices and I'd rather pull a Mike Ditka and trade them all for a quarterback, and then you're going to realize how good your receivers are. The receiving corps is not that bad of a receiving corps. When you've got nine in a box, you've got to have a quarterback that can hit them, and I just know they should trade some draft choices and get a good quarterback. With the 11 Pro Bowlers that they had – seven and four alternates – trade like a Ditka. Or get a shutdown corner and that's going to improve your defensive line. I don't know if they're going to get a shutdown corner with the 17th draft pick, but if they're going to be stubborn about sticking with Tarvaris Jackson, then trade up and get a shutdown corner and that's going to help everything else. Everybody is talking about receiver, but if you haven't got a quarterback that is in sync with them, then that's the end of the conversation.

VU: With cornerback, I don't think they put a great deal of value in that position with this defense.

BL: You know, they don't mention it, but every two days they were bringing in defensive backs last year. That's telling me something. I know a lot of times Brad Childress likes to keep stuff from the media, but when you see that many players come in at that particular position, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out they're not happy with the corners they have.

Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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