NFL delays release of featured games

The Vikings are expected to play the New Orleans Saints in a rematch of the NFC Championship, but we might have to wait a few more weeks to know that for sure. The NFL eschewed its tradition of releasing its featured games at the owners meetings.

Something is up with the NFL and releasing the highlight games on its 2010 schedule. The announcement initially was scheduled for Monday, ushering in the annual owners meetings – this year being held in Orlando. Then a decision was expected Tuesday, but the only the announcement was that there is no announcement,

The NFL through its media arm announced Tuesday that the anticipated announcement of the prime time games of kickoff weekend, the three Thanksgiving Day games and other selected marquee matchups will be delayed, quite possibly until shortly before the entire scheduled is unveiled in mid-April.

There has been a lot of local interest around the Vikings generated from the expected announcement. It has been confirmed that, as in recent years, the defending Super Bowl champion will host the first game of the season. In the case of 2010, that will be the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 9. Word has also leaked that the Pittsburgh Steelers, the other likely candidate for a potential opening game – pitting the last two Super Bowl champions – have been informed they won't be part of the opening game. If the Vikings have received such confirmation or denial of their participation, nobody has spoken up, but the Vikings and Saints seem like a logical matchup, whether Brett Favre returns or not.

The delayed decision comes as something of surprise, since it has become a regular part of the league generating some offseason attention as the other major professional sports either head down the wire to their playoffs or are at the start of their own respective seasons. Much like Major League Baseball spaces out its annual postseason awards to keep them active in the sports consciousness during its offseason, so, too, has the NFL observed a similar strategy to garner offseason interest and discussion. Releasing the key games, followed by the Monday night prime-time schedule, before the full disclosure of the season schedule has been part of that process, but for reasons yet to be explained a delay is taking place.

The last time an NFL schedule was released late was due to the death of Val Pinchbeck, an executive with the NFL who worked on devising a league schedule for more than 30 years under Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Pinchbeck died March 8, 2004, after being hit by a taxi and killed leaving the NFL's corporate offices on Park Avenue in New York City. That year, the schedule, which had yet to be finalized, was delayed until April, much like it appears this year's schedule will be released.

While no decision was made, it still appears that the Vikings and Saints will get their chance for a Superdome rematch. But official confirmation has yet to come so we still have to wait and wonder.


  • Despite being dubbed by some "The Favre Rule," the playoff overtime rule that would allow both teams to have at least one possession if the first team to receive the ball doesn't score a touchdown on its opening drive passed on Tuesday. The Vikings were one of just four teams to vote against the rules change. It passed 28-4 with the dissenting votes coming from Minnesota, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Buffalo.

  • At the AFC coaches breakfast at the owners meetings Tuesday, Jets coach Rex Ryan said he was never concerned about the Vikings in their pursuit of running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

    "I never worried about other people involved in (pursuing Tomlinson)," Ryan told reporters. "We just prevented ourselves and obviously it was good enough. We've got a great situation here. We have a philosophy – a ground-and-pound philosophy – which is our bread and butter. We have a brand new stadium that we took him over to see. We've got the best facilities in the league, in my opinion. We have a bunch of great teammates and all that kind of stuff and obviously Minnesota does as well. Our focus was talking about our situation, our football team and all that. I never asked him or got any sense at all about other teams involved."

    Tomlinson, who reportedly took less money to go to the Jets, has cited the chance for more playing time in New York as one of his primary reasons for signing with the Jets instead of the Vikings, where he clearly would have played second-fiddle to Adrian Peterson.

  • Peterson has signed on to take part in Michael Vick's football camp, scheduled for June 23-25 at Hampton University in Virginia. Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, who grew up in the Hampton Roads area, is also committed to taking part in the camp.

  • Appearing on "The Dan Patrick Show" on syndicated radio stations throughout the country, former head coach and Vikings assistant Tony Dungy said that he believes Brett Favre will be coming back, telling Patrick, "My guess is that he's coming back. They got close. He feels he can do it with this team"

  • Even the Wall Street Journal has become involved in the will-Favre-return question. On its blog site, WSJ sports blogger Nando Di Fino made an interesting point about how much the Favre play-or-not-play obsession goes. He pointed out that if someone does a Google search and starts to type the phrase "Will he retire?" by the time you get to "will he reti" the only suggested full topic listed is "brett favre will he retire." He has transcended the game with his pursuit of playing another season.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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