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Recession Catches Up to NFL—Sort of

As the NFL's Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints kicked off the football season on Thursday, even America's most popular sport finds that it isn't entirely spared by the recession.

Snow surrounds the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Mall of America Stadium where the inflatable roof collapsed under the weight of snow during a storm Sunday morning December 12, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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The League, teams and players alike have been facing tough financial times, whether due to the state budget crises or the long-running dispute over collective bargaining.

The Minnesota Vikings are the victims of government budget cuts. With their lease for their stadium in Minneapolis coming to an end in a few months, the team was expecting state and county government help to build a new one and replace the aging Metrodome—the stadium whose roof famously collapsed in December due to heavy snowfalls—but state legislature announced in July that such assistance was no longer on the short-term agenda.

"There's not a lot of support for cutting people off health care, cutting jobs, then turning around and authorizing bonding for a stadium," Rep. Michael Nelson, a member of Minnesota's Democrat-Farmer-Labor party and co-sponsor of the stadium bill, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Though most professional football players have enough wealth to weather a recession , they haven't been wholly spared by the downturn either.

On July 25, players and NFL-team owners finally reached an agreementand signed a deal to put an end to an almost-six-month long lockout that had been triggered by disputes over salaries.

"I wanted to buy a car for my brother because his car is beat up," Willie Colon, an offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, told the Associated Press in March, "but I told him this is not the year to make a lot of moves, especially with me being a (restricted) free agent and the lockout."

During the lockout, some NFL teams pushed the budget cuts as far as suspending their players' 401(k) plans and health plans, as well as imposing staff furloughs. Scott Fujita, a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, told the AP that he was paying $1,900 in monthly insurance costs for his wife and two children.

With the lockout at an end and the 2011-2012 season starting, some players say the dispute taught them a thing or too about personal financial responsibility.

"It's not about, 'Well, I'm locked out, so now I need to save,"' Steve Smith, a Carolina Panthers receiver, had told AP, in March. "It's really giving guys an opportunity to evaluate themselves and say, 'You're supposed to save anyway.' It's just an added incentive to make guys look at their financial habits and correct them and change them."