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Sources Saying Vikings Season Iffy

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July 29, 2020


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Although the Vikings opened training camp yesterday, word is sources close to the organization question whether an NFL season will happen due to the ongoing COVID-19 threat.

Vikings employees were shaken Monday when the announcement came that popular trainer Eric Sugarman, in charge of the team’s COVID protocol, tested positive for the virus along with members of his family.  That news came on the same day several Vikings players, including 2020 top draft choice Justin Jefferson, were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.  The designation refers to a player who either tests positive for COVID-19 or who has been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person or persons.

Vikings and NFL decision makers are monitoring their own franchises and what’s happening in other professional sports leagues that are starting up.  Pandemic concerns have already surfaced in MLB, forcing cancellation of games after teams began playing their 60-game schedules just last week.

Baseball is a sport that allows social distancing on the field, whereas pro football does not and has about twice the number of players on rosters.  “If baseball can’t play, what does that say about the NFL and college football,” said a sports industry source who has heard about Vikings concerns.

Another Sports Headliners source with expertise shared a similar view.  “I have a hard time believing it (the schedule) is going to get off and running,” he said. “If there is a (NFL) season, it might be eight to 10 games.”

A worst case scenario for the Vikings and NFL would be stoppage of training camps because of sizeable virus outbreaks among their players and staffs, coupled with worsening news across Minnesota and the nation about the pandemic, and MLB suspending or cancelling its season. Football certainly falls into the category of high risk for coronavirus transmission.

The league has already cancelled all preseason games, with the regular season scheduled to start in September.  Maybe.

Worth Noting

What? College Football News posted its preseason All-American offensive team this week including wide receivers, but Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, a likely first round NFL Draft choice next spring, wasn’t included among the 12 receivers.  Louisville’s Tutu Atwell, Jr., son of ex-Gopher Tutu Atwell, was included on the list.

Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan made Honorable Mention.

The outpouring of condolences following the recent death of Gophers 1960s three-sport standout Noel Jenke has been moving, and look for former teammates from baseball, football and hockey to organize a gathering to celebrate the life of the Owatonna, Minnesota native.

Glen Taylor

It looks like 79-year-old Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor will cash in on selling the franchise that he bought in 1994 for a reported $88 million and make a huge gain.  Forbes has valued the franchise at $1.375 billion, with media stories having Taylor asking $1.2 billion.  Taylor bought the club from original owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner, who are believed to have paid the NBA $32.5 million in the late 1980s to bring an expansion franchise to Minneapolis.

I remember inquiring about an NBA franchise in the early 1970s and receiving a letter from league commissioner Walter Kennedy cautioning that an expansion fee would be over $500,000!

Taylor is likely to weigh several factors in deciding who will buy the club, including a review of bidders who are ethnic minorities.  The NBA office will welcome and perhaps push for such potential buyers, and that includes former Wolves superstar Kevin Garnett who is part of an interested group.  Garnett, though, has expressed harsh criticism of Taylor in the past and it’s unknown how that might affect decisions by the soft-spoken Timberwolves owner.

WCCO Radio’s Mike Max said this morning to watch for an announcement later today that the University of St. Thomas men’s hockey program will be joining the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

College Hockey, Inc. reports there are 218 NCAA alumni playing for NHL teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs that begin Saturday, and the Gophers have the most alums with 17.

The prediction here is Alex Stalock wins the goalie competition as the Minnesota Wild prep to play its opening game Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks.  He might handle pressure better than another veteran, Devan Dubnyk.  Like every team in the playoffs, the Wild is searching for a hot goaltender to lead win after win in the playoffs.  Look for coach Dean Evason to stick with whoever he chooses as starting goalie.

The Canucks are a solid offensive team and for the Wild to match production, continued breakout stardom will be needed from Minnesota forward Kevin Fiala.  He tied his NHL career high of 23 goals last season before the pandemic prematurely ended the schedule.  In the last five games he had seven points including four goals.

Expect Evason to not favor his top lines for most playing time.  If the third or fourth lines are performing the best, their minutes will be considerable.

Josh Donaldson was off to a slow start at the plate in the Twins’ first three games, all on the road, but he hit his first home run of the season and first in a Minnesota uniform last night in the club’s home opening 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.  In one game with the Twins, and 22 other prior games playing for other clubs, Donaldson has a career.384 batting average at Target Field.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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