Frazier praises Vikes' owners for not making cuts during lockout
By Jon Krawczynski, AP Sports Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE -- While several teams throughout the league made cuts to their staff or trimmed salaries during more than four months of labor strife in the NFL, Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf kept all of the team's employees on board and didn't cut a dime from their wages.
Head coach Leslie Frazier thinks that decision will pay off big for the franchise as the NFL emerges from the doldrums of a four-month lockout. Frazier praised the Wilf family for their patience on Monday at a news conference to discuss the end of the lockout.
"The fact there were no furloughs, there were no layoffs, there were no pay cuts, I mean, it just reminded me of how special this organization is," Frazier said. "And I feel like I work for the best organization in the National Football League. What they did was go beyond our expectations."
The Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens were among the teams that either laid off employees or cut their salaries. It would have been easy for the Vikings, who have some of the lowest revenues in the league thanks in large part to an outdated deal at the Metrodome, to follow suit.
But the Wilfs did just the opposite, keeping everyone around and even issuing some promotions throughout the building. Frazier said that approach helped the Vikings stay focused on preparing for 2011 rather than becoming disenchanted with the state of the organization.
"What it allowed myself and the coaches and everybody with the Vikings to do was to do what we've been asked to do, and that's to put our effort and our concentration on bringing a championship, a world championship, to Minnesota," Frazier said. "The morale in our building never, ever waned. We knew we had the support from the leadership to be focused on what we had to do."
President and owner Mark Wilf did not address the decision in a statement issued by the team, preferring just to concentrate on expressing relief that the lockout was finally over.
"We appreciate the patience and support of Vikings fans throughout this process," Mark Wilf said. "Under Coach Frazier's leadership, we look forward to sharing an exciting season of football with our fans."
Coming off a 6-10 season with stadium revenue continuing to be near the bottom of the league, the Wilfs have said they need a new stadium for the team to remain competitive with other teams in larger markets and with newer arenas. Season ticket numbers are down as well, no doubt a direct reflection of fans' disenchantment with the lockout.
The team currently has a deal in place with Ramsey County to build a new stadium in Arden Hills, but so far has been unable to get the proposal up for a vote by the state legislature.
Vikings vice president of sales and marketing Steve LaCroix said season ticket numbers are down, but the team hopes the end of the lockout will help get the numbers more on pace with past years.
"I would say the activity has picked up," LaCroix said. "I wouldn't say the faucet is pouring at this point, but it certainly jumpstarts some things and gives us certainly a lot of motivation to get back in touch with fans that have been out of touch or that weren't quite sure where we were going to go. That's probably true across all 31 other clubs as far as where their business is versus a year ago."