Lurtsema's Reaction: Fan talkers to finances

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema enjoyed a ride on the Vikings' Arctic Blast and it gave him a chance to get the pulse of the fans, the players and the some Vikings staffers. One topic kept coming up with the fans, but Lurtsema has some strong feelings on the NFL's labor situation as well. And what would he change about the Vikings in 2010?

VU: What was the mood of fans you encountered during the Vikings Arctic Blast snowmobile rally you participated in?

BL: They are such great fans up north. They are so knowledgeable about the game and they bleed purple 25-7 if that's possible. Their kids, their grandkids, everyone was all decked out in their purple best. But they were really, really depressed from that loss in the NFC Championship still. The general feeling was that this was the worst defeat they've ever encountered. The 12 men in the huddle is all they kept talking about. It was worse than the kneeldown, worse than the Hail Mary. It was 95 percent of the people and they were all talking about the same thing, the 12 men in the huddle. They'll be back with the Vikings when the season starts and they all want Brett Favre to come back for another year. The worst part is they know the Vikings could have beaten the Colts. I know how bad everyone feels and I know how bad Zygi Wilf feels. I think Zygi has gone into hiding. With his passion for football and coming that close to going to the Super Bowl, I know his situation.

VU: Did you get any feeling about what might happen with any of the Vikings' free agents from your talks with people on the Arctic Blast?

BL: Talking to players, the thing that kept coming up was that they felt Dallas was the best team in the playoffs and they were happy to beat Dallas. The players feel like they're going to make the playoffs next year and they want it to start as soon as possible to get rid of the negative feeling that they have right now. They understand how close they were – one play away. They are still excited to be a Viking. There's nobody that wants to leave the club. Jamarca Sanford was up there and he was excited and I kind of like him. I thought he played very well at the end. And then Ray Edwards, he had some textbook pass rushes the last part of the season and set those records for sack yardage in a playoff game and sacks in a playoff game in Vikings history. We kind of joked with Ray about 22½ sacks a couple of years of ago, but the way he's playing now I can see him having 12 or 13 sacks next season. The players are going to let things fall the way they fall when it comes to free agency and the collective bargaining agreement, but they do not want to use that as leverage to leave the team.

VU: What sort of feeling have you gotten on the whole labor dispute, whether that was from players or front-office guys you were talking to?

BL: If you talk to Darrin Nelson, it cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars and he went through two different strikes (in the 1980s). He left $200,000 on the table and the union doesn't seem concerned about the alumni. As Darrin said, he paid the price and they're not that concerned about the alumni. If there is a stoppage, it's going to be a wakeup call, but right now they are in la-la land. The players don't understand it and they're not close enough to really get involved. But they are irritating a lot of the alumni. The alumni is of the mind that the players don't owe them anything but they had better recognize the money that we gave up for them to be in the situation that they're in.

VU: If there is a lockout by the owners, I think both sides will take a hit, but it seems to me that the owners hold most of the leverage.

BL: For the players, they want the opportunity to be successful as a professional and the average career is 3½ years. If they take away half of a season, that's a pretty good chunk of cash. Don't tell me that these young kids – and I don't care how much money they've got – that they can afford to throw away half a million, a million, two million dollars. They'll never get it back.

VU: I think the players would be happy to stay status quo because they've got a good deal going.

BL: Absolutely. The owners do have all the cards. If they've got the royal flush and the players are sitting with a full house, fold your cards and come back to play another day. Don't be so greedy and so ignorant to think that the league cannot play without you. There are a lot of guys that didn't quite make the league that would take the opportunity to play and they would take some of those veteran spots. It's happened before and it will happen again. Even if it is all B players playing against B players and it's not the A game that the NFL has right now, it will still be competitive. Most fans want the competition and it's going to create just as much excitement and then you're going to see new names pop up. These superstars can pass by the wayside. It's all relative and that's what can happen.

VU: Have you gotten any feel for how the stadium issue is going in the legislature?

BL: I think Gov. Tim Pawlenty is starting to come to the Vikings' side. I introduced him one time at the VIP tent down in Mankato. He said it directly to the crowd and myself that he would do everything possible to keep the Vikings in the state of Minnesota because the Vikings are Minnesota. He's a football fan and I think he can get behind the stadium now with two other stadiums for the Gophers and Twins already built. The average person, myself included, doesn't always understand the amount of taxes they bring in, like the $18 million they pay in taxes. That could pay off a nice debt. That would help to pay the stadium down awful quick and that has nothing to do with all the jobs, the secondary money coming in, the Super Bowl money, etc., etc. I think the time has come where enough of that stuff has been talked about and exposed to the public that some of the other politicians in the state can talk more easily with their constituency because the citizens are more understanding.

VU: This is the time of year where coaches have done all the evaluations and self-studies. Are there some things that you would want to see changed with this team – not with their personnel, but with schemes or philosophies from 2009 to 2010?

BL: I kind of like offensive linemen trying to root out the defensive line rather than being more passive. I don't like the idea of Adrian Peterson being taught patience – to wait, wait, wait. I think you don't want to change a running back's style. He's a great, great runner. Let him run with his style. Don't change an individual's strengths. It's no different than taking a 400-pound defensive tackle who is the best run-stopper in the world. Don't change him into trying to be a pass rusher. I'd like to see them run outside a little bit more and be a little more aggressive. And then put Chester Taylor and Peterson together. I still believe if you have both of them in the backfield at the same time, just speaking as a defensive lineman, I cannot be as aggressive. I've got to check a lot more keys before I can get pursuit. It's going to keep me home a little longer. Other formations, I can still blast off the ball and be a little more aggressive. But if you throw those two backs with their style off the split formation, that would confuse me. A lot of my coaches would say I was confused a lot of the time anyway.

Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was 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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