Owners Meeting Pivotal

The Vikings sale is on the back burner of the topics for discussion at this week's NFL owners meetings. But, the meetings will have long-term ramifications. With the window of opportunity open to extend the labor peace in the NFL, owners have to make some hard decisions as to where they stand to assure the NFL doesn't wallow in the mistakes of others.

Baseball can claim it's "America's Pastime" all it wants. But, the truth of the matter is that the NFL is the Big Daddy of professional sports. With baseball embroiled in its own steroid scandal, the NBA marketing individuals instead of teams and the NHL being, for the lack of a better term, dead, the NFL has the chance to entrench itself as THE sport in the U.S. for as long as it wants to.

With one stumbling block.

Gross revenue in the NFL sets the salary cap for players. But, as Vikings fans have learned all too well, local stadium revenue – from naming rights to luxury boxes to in-stadium signage to parking – varies greatly from one team to the next.

In the big picture of things, that may not seem like an issue. But, if the NFL Players Association wants to make it one – a fear VU has been told is more than a passing interest - it could be a regrettable stumbling block to long-term NFL peace.

As NFL owners begin their "official" annual meeting today in Hawaii, this topic will top the back-room discussions. Why? The league salary cap has never been placed in stone. If an extension to the current labor agreement -- which currently lasts through 2008 -- isn't extended by the end of the 2006 season, there will be no salary cap in the 2007 season.

That potential reality could lead to all-out war among NFL owners. Those willing to abuse the privilege of having a "free pass" for one season may get creative with contracts and create a chasm among owners.

If the owners take one thing from their meetings this week – other than tanning potential – it should be that they have positioned themselves to bury the competition. From the ownership standpoint, the NFL is a money maker like no other in sports. Don't ruin a good thing arguing over thousands when millions are at stake. The same has brought down every other pro sport, which is why football is now "America's Pastime." Let's keep it that way.

MONDAY NOTES
* More than a couple mock drafts have the Vikings taking Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent with their second-round pick. The only way that happens is if Scott Studwell is bound and gagged – and that's considered mutiny in the war room.
* A couple of interesting Reggie Fowler contacts have been made in recent weeks. One is with Dan Rooney, the owners of the Steelers and a strong supporter of NFL diversity. The other is with a fact-finding leader on getting a stadium deal in Los Angeles. Take both for what they're worth.
* Part of the trade that brought Sam Cowart to the Vikes was that, if he isn't on the opening-day roster, the Vikings get their seventh-round pick back in 2006.
* Considering the organizational stroke Ted Cottrell is wielding, how long will it be until the Vikings go to a 3-4 defense? It's what Cottrell has made his living on and, if he's convinced E.J. Henderson and Dontarrious Thomas are up to par, pay attention to how mini-camp practices are conducted.
* From the "Snowball's Chance In Hell" Department comes this: One of the items to be discussed on this week's owner's meeting agenda is expanding instant replay to deal with fumbles after a whistle has blown. Whomever added that item should be slapped. A whistle gets most players to stop being violent. If one player stops, the play is over. Considering a cadre of owners have fought to keep any form of replay, expanding it doesn't stand a chance. Hopefully, not much time will be wasted on discussion of this doomed topic.

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