McCombs hands Wilf control of Vikings
15 June 2005

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - Red McCombs is no longer in charge of the Minnesota Vikings, but he still feels like they're his team.

After signing off Tuesday on his $600 million sale of the franchise to a group headed by New Jersey real estate developer Zygi Wilf, McCombs gushed about his seven-year stint as the team's owner.

McCombs, speaking on a conference call from his San Antonio office, reminded reporters that all the offseason moves made by Minnesota were completed under his watch. After adding at least five new starters on defense, the Vikings could be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

"To me, this year - this will be my team, regardless of the fact that we're totally out of ownership," he said. "It's obvious that we were involved in putting this team together."

But Wilf, who was unavailable for comment, will now be calling the shots. The sale - approved unanimously by NFL owners on May 25 - closed late Monday, and McCombs spoke with Wilf Tuesday morning.

Before addressing the media, McCombs characterized his conversation in this statement:

"I committed my continuing lifetime interest in the Vikings and again welcomed him and his partners into the Vikings family. I have every reason to believe his ownership will mark new highlights for the Vikings. I expressed to Mr. Wilf that the Vikings' fans are the backbone of the franchise and I know all Vikings fans will welcome his ownership group with the same enthusiasm they extended to me and my family."

Beneath the front office, it's been business as usual since McCombs first met with Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler - now a limited investor - in April 2004.

Coach Mike Tice is scheduled to meet with Wilf's brother, Mark, on Wednesday and with Wilf on Thursday.

"I think they're excited to be a part of what we have right now. I certainly know I would be," said Tice, a native New Yorker who's excited about the addition of another East Coast guy to the team.

Though McCombs' constant cost-cutting and unwillingness, until this year, to spend much on the free-agent market was a frustration for several members of the organization, this sounds like an amicable split. The team even distributed a list of highlights from the past seven seasons with McCombs in charge.

"I wish we could've won a championship for him, a division title," Tice said. "Those things are coming."

McCombs said he wasn't surprised when Fowler was replaced by Wilf as the general partner this spring, but that he didn't anticipate the league's concern about Fowler's worth.

"A lot of us at times feel like we're a lot more liquid than others see us," McCombs said. "And when the NFL did their examination, they took a little different view of it."

Always a hands-on owner, McCombs - before insisting he's not disappointed to leave a team that looks poised to become one of the NFL's best - said he doubted Tice's pledge to make the Vikings into more of a power-running team.
"I don't think Mike's going to listen to me on what I think he should be doing
(Good!), but when you've got a quarterback like (Daunte Culpepper) who is right at the absolute peak of his career, and you have a receiving corps like we have there, I think we're going to see a lot of balls in the air.

"I'd be surprised if we didn't. I'd be disappointed if we didn't."

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