The Vikings’ promotion of Kevin Warren to Chief Operating Officer quickly led to speculation on the blogosphere that Warren’s increased power could prevent suspended running back Adrian Peterson from returning to the team.
Yes, even after Vikings Owner and President Mark Wilf made a resounding statement yesterday that ownership would “love to have him back” upon his reinstatement.
Why the speculation? Well, ESPN reported back in November that Warren, then the team’s Vice President of Legal Affairs, was not in favor of Peterson’s return. That report even went as far to say that Warren and the NFL were conspiring to keep Peterson sidelined for the rest of the season.
But on a conference call with select Twin Cities media on Thursday, Warren dispelled that notion with a two-plus-minute answer to a question about where he stands on the Peterson situation.
“I think that our organization and individuals in our organization from Zygi Wilf to Mark Wilf to [Mike] Zimmer to Rick Spielman have made it very clear that they all would welcome Adrian back once he gets all the open items resolved with the league,” he said. “And I feel the exact same way.”
“I’ve had an opportunity to work with the Vikings for 10 years and I’m getting ready to start my 11th season. Adrian has spent his entire career here and he has not only been an absolutely phenomenal football player and a joy to watch — I’ve been fortunate to watch every single game, both preseason and regular season, that he’s played in a Vikings uniform — [but] also he’s been a phenomenal individual in our community. He’s done so many good things that the public and the media have heard about and then there are a lot of other things that he does on a very quiet and personal basis.
“So for my feelings about Adrian, I have great respect for him as a football player and as a person. He’s part of our Vikings family and I would welcome him back with open arms. And as I said, I don’t think he ever left. He’s still a member of our team. So a lot of things that have been said, it’s probably not appropriate to even comment and respond to things that have been said or whatever. But I can tell you that my feelings about Adrian are very positive. They’ve been positive every day that he’s been here with the Vikings. I look forward to him having the opportunity to play again and as Mark Wilf said yesterday, once he gets everything resolved and is in a position to play, he’s an absolutely incredible football player and he’s a great community ambassador and he’s been great for the game of football. I hope that he finishes his career here in Minnesota. I hope we can win multiple Super Bowls together. And I hope I can attend his Hall-of-Fame induction in Canton many years down the road.
“I hope that sets it straight how I feel about Adrian Peterson.”
Asked specifically if he was denying the November report from ESPN, Warren didn’t explicitly shoot it down. But he made it clear that he and the rest of the organization supports Peterson’s return.
“Last year was a complicated year at all levels or various levels,” Warren said. “But again, I just want to make it very clear: Once Adrian gets his items resolved with the NFL and is free to play again and rejoin our franchise, I think it’s good for Adrian, it would be good for us, it would be good all the Vikings fans, it would be good for our community and it would be good for the NFL.”
Of course, there is the matter of Peterson’s contract, which may end up being the final hurdle — and it would be a tall one to clear — if Peterson is to resume his career with the Vikings. The 29-year-old is schedule to make $12.75 million in base salary with a salary cap hit of $15.4 million.
Asked if it was realistic to expect Peterson to play on his current deal, Warren declined comment.
“I respect that question,” he said. “But that is definitely a question that Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski and Coach Zimmer are better suited to answer when it comes down to the pure football decisions and the salary cap questions.”
Is patience a real thing these days when it comes to sports fans — and does it need to be?
We ask that with an eye in two different directions, as it pertains to two local teams in the midst of long rebuilds with some relief in sight but no (as of yet) tangible results: the Wolves and Twins.
First, there exists the rule of instant gratification in our society. It has always been there, we imagine, but “instant” keeps getting faster. Centuries ago, at a moment when something that used to take four days suddenly only took two days, four days became a torturous wait. Then “instant” gratification changed from days to hours. Then hours to minutes. And now if a web site or mobile site doesn’t load in three seconds, denying us what we want almost literally instantly, people freak out. (Seriously, we waited in line for 20 minutes at a car rental place recently and it’s a wonder the guy behind us didn’t collapse from the torture).
In that regard, there is no patience for losing. Trades must be made. Heads must roll. Someone needs to be held ACCOUNTABLE if this thing is going to get fixed.
Then again, our attention is so divided by the seemingly infinite options we have these days that we need not exhibit patience. We can simply tune out when a team is bad and tune back in when it suits us. Again, this has happened for decades. But the number of things vying for our attention and consumption in 2015 is mind-boggling when compared, even, to 1985 (and yes, these are conveniently the present and future years in Back to the Future).
Just in the world of sports, in the not-too-distant past, if your local team was bad … well, you were pretty much stuck with them. Now you can basically follow any team, anywhere, anytime. You can watch them and read about them from thousands of miles away with pretty much the same experience as someone living in the team’s home city (minus attending games in person, but that’s such a small piece of the puzzle for a lot of major pro sports teams nowadays, with their revenues propped up by massive TV contracts and their popularity sustained through various traditional and social media channels).
We got started on this topic/tangent based on (another) prediction that the Twins will be lousy again this season, this one an ESPN.com outlook that pegs the hometown nine for 68 wins (and 94 losses). The Wolves lost again last night, and while they appear to be much more functional as they return to health and their young players continue to mature, they are very likely headed for a 60-loss season.
Both franchises are selling hope for the future, which is a powerful drug and the best way to go unless you are a true contender. You either want to be on the rise or in the mix; you never want, these days, to be stuck in the middle.
But they’ve both been selling it for years. We initially set out to ask/answer the question, “How long will fans be patient?” with both these franchises, but we’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is: “It doesn’t really matter because patience, at least when it comes to fans, decreases in importance with every day.”
Teams still need to be patient and have visions for the future — eschewing temptations to take roster shortcuts. But those who root for them? While we’re not advocating that they become fair-weather fans because that’s the worst kind of fan, we are starting to understand that they just aren’t going to exhibit patience, and that’s OK.
In bad times, they’ll gripe about teams and demand fixes … or watch them more casually while turning their attention to other interests. As that happens, the Wolves and Twins will continue to exist and they’ll continue to be profitable. If the good times ever come back, more people will pay close attention and more people will go to games in person … while the Wolves and Twins will continue to exist and make a little bit more money.
How long will fans wait? As long as it takes, impatiently, by whatever means they see fit.
The Vikings will kick off the NFL preseason on August 9 when they play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The game will be played in Fawcett Stadium in Canton one day after the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015, which includes legendary Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, is formally enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC’s Sunday Night Football at 7:00 p.m. CDT.
“This is a tremendous honor for our organization to be featured in the Hall of Fame Game,” head coach Mike Zimmer said in a statement released by the team. “It will give our players and coaches an extra week to prepare for the regular season and an additional opportunity for us to evaluate our roster. Pairing the game with Mick going into the Hall of Fame, it will be a special weekend for the Minnesota Vikings and our fans.”
This will be the Vikings’ first appearance in the Hall of Fame Game since 1997 and their fourth overall appearance.
“We are tremendously excited about the opportunity to kick off the 2015 NFL preseason on a national stage,” Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf said in the statement. “This trip will give our young team a chance to appreciate the many players and individuals who have made the game what it is today.”
The Vikings’ inclusion in the Hall of Fame Game means they will play five preseason games in 2015.