Minnesota Vikings players pass owner Zygi Wilf as they move between fields… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )
The Minnesota Vikings are in the final year of their lease at the Metrodome, funding for a new stadium hasn't been secured and a developer has taken another step toward building an NFL-ready facility in Los Angeles.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf tried to disconnect those dots again Wednesday. He said Vikings fans need not worry about the progress to the west.
"No," Wilf said sternly when asked whether fans in Minnesota should be nervous that AEG received an endorsement from the L.A. City Council on Tuesday for the funding and timeline of the project there.
"We have momentum here in Arden Hills," Wilf said, referring to the suburb 10 miles north of Minneapolis where Vikings and Ramsey County officials have agreed to put a stadium if the state signs off on the deal.
Wilf and his stadium point man, vice president Lester Bagley, mingled with business and political leaders from the northern suburbs during training camp practice Wednesday in Mankato, Minn. Ramsey County commissioners Tony Bennett and Rafael Ortega joined Wilf to tout the job-creating benefits of the $1.1-billion project, which would cost $53 million more if it's not finalized this year because of construction cost inflation, according to Bagley.
"Our sleeves are rolled up. We want to get it done," Bagley said.
Wilf and his brother, team President Mark Wilf, met with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton last week.
"It went very well. We realized that many of the details that we were negotiating in the past, and questions that were asked in the past, were answered," Wilf said. "We still have a few questions to be answered, but we're very optimistic we had all the pieces in place and we'll be able to achieve bipartisan support to move this forward."
'Uphill battle' for retired players
A federal judge said Wednesday that a group of retired players led by Hall of Famer Carl Eller faces an uphill battle as it seeks to press forward with a lawsuit over unresolved issues stemming from the NFL lockout.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson convened a status conference in St. Paul, Minn., to decide whether it would be worthwhile to order the three sides to sit down again next week with U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, who brokered the agreement that ended the lockout but did not settle the retirees' still-pending lawsuit.
The retirees claim they were illegally left out as the contract negotiations progressed, and the discussions Wednesday escalated into a partial airing of the complex arguments about league and union legal responsibilities to the retirees that the judge needs to untangle as she decides how to proceed.
Attorneys for the league and NFL Players Assn. argued against letting the lawsuit move forward or going to mediation. Representing the NFL, David Boies said retirees received a substantial increase in benefits under the new contract. NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler pointed out that the court has not yet added the union as a defendant to the retirees' original lawsuit, so there's nothing for the union to mediate at the moment.
Nelson said she sympathizes with the retirees but likened their case to "pushing a rock up a hill."
Rather than ordering more mediation, she told the three sides to sit down with Boylan for informal talks Wednesday afternoon. Afterward, lawyers for all sides said the discussions produced no agreement or date for additional mediation.
Wide receiver Steve Smith signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, leaving the New York Giants after four seasons. Smith, who played at USC, is recovering from microfracture knee surgery. … Three-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins agreed to a six-year deal to remain with the New England Patriots, according to ESPN. … Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews revealed that he suffered a stress fracture in his left leg midway through last season. Matthews needed time off from practice, but the injury didn't stop him from being a disruptive pass rusher each week. He said the leg was fine by the end of the regular season and didn't hold him back from helping the Packers win the Super Bowl. … Bill Parcells and Jerry Rice will work as NFL analysts for ESPN this season. … The New Orleans Saints released veteran linebacker Danny Clark and signed offensive tackle Jordan Black. … The New England Patriots have claimed guard Mark Wetterer off waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals and released safety Ross Ventrone. … Michael Vick and the rest of the starters are expected to play one quarter when the Eagles open the exhibition season against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.