One week after news surfaced that Minnesota Vikings players had behaved wantonly and recklessly cruising on Lake Minnetonka,
team owner Zygmunt Wilf stepped aggressively into grassroots damage control mode.
On Tuesday morning, he addressed the Rochester, Minn., Chamber of Commerce
at the Ramada Inn. Later, he met with the St. Cloud Rotary Club at the Radisson Hotel. Wilf made brief remarks at both stops
and fielded some difficult questions from disappointed fans.
"You have to go through some tough love sometimes," he said in St. Cloud.
"My goal is to win championships. But now, my goal is to make sure the organization does this with class."
After returning to his office in Eden Prairie, Lester Bagley, the Vikings'
vice president of public affairs, offered this perspective:
"Our ownership was as shocked and appalled by the behavior that was reported
as our fans were. The way Mr. Wilf is looking at it is it's a chance to set a new course, a new tone and build a strong foundation.
"That's really the only thing we can do, look at it as an opportunity to
get it right."
One of Wilf's first acts as the new owner of the Vikings in June was to
refurbish the decaying viking ship that marks the team's Winter Park training facility.
A few new planks and a fresh coat of paint restored the authentic replica
from Norway to its former glory. In retrospect, it was a purely cosmetic exercise. For the Vikings' ship is listing badly
-- considering all that has happened in the last six weeks, the franchise finds itself at arguably its lowest point in a rich
Just when folks thought it couldn't get any worse than head coach Mike
Tice's Super Bowl ticket scalping scandal, wide receiver Randy Moss' mooning episode, the missteps of penny-pinching former
owner Red McCombs and the laugh-out-loud attempts of running back Onterrio Smith to avoid drug detection with a contraption known as the Whizzinator …
it, amazingly, got worse.
On Oct. 11, the very day Wilf was winding up a two-day Vikings management
retreat (subject: How to build the Vikings into a first-class organization) in Chaska, Minn., the dark secret leaked into
the public domain. The previous Thursday, when the players should have been soul-searching and focusing on turning around
a 1-3 start, they were partying hard on Lake Minnetonka.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is investigating a complaint by Al
& Alma's Supper Club and Charter Cruises in Mound, Minn., that alleges 17 Vikings players participated in a sex and alcohol
party aboard two boats. The cruise company charged that some players brought strippers on board and participated in numerous
lewd acts. Crew members, including an 18-year-old, were invited to participate with cash as an incentive, according to attorney
Stephen Doyle. Fearing for its safety, Doyle said, the crew ended the cruise, scheduled for 3½ hours, after 40 minutes.
There has been no formal action yet, but misdemeanor charges for lewd behavior
could soon be filed against some players. If it is discovered that prostitutes were flown in from out of state, as some sources
have suggested, the FBI would likely enter the case and felony charges could be part of the fallout.
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
It's been a rough year for Daunte Culpepper.
On Sunday, at Soldier Field, the scand
al seemed to affect the Vikings adversely. Despite having two weeks to
prepare for a team with an anemic offense, they lost 28-3 to the Bears. In Minnesota's five games (four of them losses), the
offense has scored exactly five touchdowns. In the past 25 offensive series, the Vikings have produced a single touchdown.
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, a Pro Bowl player a year ago, has been awful. In 2004, Culpepper set an
NFL record for combined total offense, passing for 4,717 yards and running for an additional 407. His passer rating was 110.0,
one of the best single-season totals in history. This year's figure is 62.8, ranked 29th among the top 30 quarterbacks. Culpepper
has already thrown 12 interceptions, one more than each of the last two seasons.
Though people at the team's Winter Park facility insist that the loss of
Moss to the Oakland Raiders is not a major factor, it is clear Culpepper misses him. With Moss gone and
no comparable threat on the roster, teams are throwing exotic defenses at Culpepper, who, in his seventh season, has looked
like a rookie again. Gone, too, to Miami, is former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who successfully convinced Culpepper
he didn't have to make a big play on every play.
Tice pulled Jerry Rhome out of retirement during the bye week and his first
game with the title of Vikings offensive assistant/passing game resulted in a total of three points.
While much of the pressure has fallen on the broad shoulders of Tice, a
14-year tight end in the NFL, Wilf has maintained that he will not fire Tice this season.
"I'm behind the coach," Wilf said Tuesday in St. Cloud. "We're trying to
be like a family, and when you're going through a difficult time, everyone needs each other's support."
On Monday, the coach himself said -- against his better judgment? -- he
would not resign.
You can see the strain when Tice massages his temples on the sideline and
discusses the state of his interminably queasy stomach.
"Stress does that to you," Tice said. "Sometimes you wake up and you say,
'Man, I didn't have anything to drink last night. I didn't have anything fattening. Why do I want to puke?'
"Then you realize, 'Oh, that's right."