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Vikings to L.A.? Minnesota stadium situation gets serious

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How concerned is the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings' stadium situation? Is there a legitimate chance the team relocates to Los Angeles? Two questions that currently don't have answers, but we do know this:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made an impromptu call to arms in front of the Minnesota state legislature Friday after another roadblock to building a new stadium arose early this week.

Goodell's message, in a nutshell: Figure out a way to fund, develop and seal the deal for a new stadium or the team could exercise its right to negotiate for a new home in L.A.

To make this clear, echoing a point Goodell made to Minnesota politicians behind closed doors Friday, the NFL does not want to leave the Twin Cities. The Vikings are a cornerstone franchise. The fans are great. The Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, doesn't want to sell the team.

But ... the NFL also wants at least one team in Los Angeles. Neither situation should be taken for granted.

The St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers are mentioned as the two teams most likely to relocate to Los Angeles because they're dealing with their own stadium issues. There doesn't seem to be the urgency in those cities, however, like there is in Minnesota.

Business is business and if a new stadium isn't built so the Vikings can turn profits, they could find a landing spot in Southern California, just like the Los Angeles Lakers did when they moved from the Twin Cities in 1960.

It's a leverage game now, and the importance of public dollars that could be applied elsewhere is huge.

As someone who was born in Minneapolis and spent his childhood rooting for Chuck Foreman, Fran Tarkenton and the Purple People Eaters in the old Metropolitan Stadium, I know the Vikings are more than a team to the Twin Cities. Losing them would be far worse than losing the NHL's North Stars to Dallas or the Lakers to L.A. It would be as crushing as it was to Baltimore when the Colts left in the middle of the night or when the Browns left Cleveland for Baltimore.

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The NFL knows this. That is why it is stressing to politicians the importance of acting quickly to figure out a plan during this legislative session that is set to end April 30. There are roughly 10 months before the Vikings could apply for relocation in February, according to a source. During that time, they can -- and likely will -- negotiate with others if it looks like a deal won't get done or if repeated obstacles are aligned.

This is an election year and there could be a lot of new faces sitting in the chair where current supporters -- or opponents -- now sit. Everybody wants to know who's supporting who and what.

There's also this: The Vikings could be as bad this season as they were last season, when they finished 3-13. Short-term frustration with the team could offset long-rooted support and open the door for the Vikings to get a fresh start in a stadium where it's 75 degrees at kickoff day or night and fans are simply happy to have football back in a shiny new stadium.

Inaction in Minneapolis could be worse than working on a new stadium deal or against it. The Vikings and the NFL want to know where they stand in the Twin Cities. If the message isn't dictated soon, the one place they won't be standing is still.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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