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Thread: Vikings' punting battle might be over

  1. #1

    Vikings' punting battle might be over

    gs' punting battle might be over
    Article by: MARK CRAIG and DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune staff writers Updated: May 4, 2013 - 6:50 AM
    Leslie Frazier compared the punting competition to last year’s brief kicking duel.


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    The Vikings began their three-day rookie minicamp Friday at Winter Park, pooling together their nine-man draft class with 16 undrafted-free-agent signees and 34 other tryout players.

    So what did we learn?

    1. The punting battle likely won’t last much longer

    Shortly after drafting left-footed punter Jeff Locke, General Manager Rick Spielman insisted the move was made to bring in competition for Chris Kluwe and not necessarily to replace the eight-year vet immediately.

    But that so-called “competition” might end this weekend.

    As a reference point, after drafting kicker Blair Walsh in Round 6 in 2012, Spielman closely tracked Walsh during the team’s rookie minicamp, just to make certain he could absorb some coaching while handling the pressure of kicking with all eyes on him.

    Walsh did just fine. And the day after the rookie minicamp finished, veteran Ryan Longwell was released.

    So read between the lines of coach Leslie Frazier’s assertion Friday that this weekend’s evaluation of Locke is “very similar” to last year’s approach with Walsh.

    “We just want to put him in different situations and see how he can respond,” Frazier said.

    Because Friday’s practice was moved indoors due to weather, Locke spent the morning at Mall of America Field downtown punting with special teams coach Mike Priefer — away from any audience. He was back at Winter Park in the afternoon, doing work as a holder.

    Assuming Locke doesn’t suffer an injury this weekend or experience a mental breakdown, he should have the punting job to himself very soon. Kluwe will meet Monday with Spielman. And both sides have agreed that if Locke is the preference — and the rookie sure seems to have the inside track — there will be no point in dragging out the breakup.

    2. Give ‘CP’ an early ‘A’ for his study habits

    It’s early. Real early. But we’ve learned that receiver Cordarrelle Patterson appears motivated off the field to disprove the popular notion that he might lack the learning capacity to grasp an NFL playbook quickly enough to start immediately.

    Patterson, this year’s 29th pick, said he spent about two hours studying his playbook the night before rookie minicamp started. He then woke up early Friday and brushed up on his duties as the ‘X’ receiver in the roughly 20 pass plays that would be run that day.

    “They’re just seeing how much we can learn by throwing it at us this quick,” Patterson said. “But it’s not what I expected. I’m getting it faster than I thought I would.”

    Even Patterson admitted that could change after one practice. But he doesn’t envision falling behind the normal NFL learning curve. Not with the special attention he’s getting from receivers coach George Stewart.

    “I really don’t think it’s going to take that long,” Patterson said. “Coach Stewart has already said he and I are going to have a lot of sessions. So he’ll make sure I know everything. We’re going to spend extra time. I know everything is going to be good.”

    3. Press coverage produces early pick

    Well, it’s officially all downhill from here for cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Just kidding, of course, but we did notice that the 25th overall pick makes a nice first impression. In this case, it was an interception in the first one-on-one drill of his first rookie minicamp practice.

    “It was just a little press coverage; my type of game,” said the 6-1, 217-pounder known for his physical play. “I kept the receiver in front of me, on my hip. The quarterback threw the ball up. It was a jump ball. And I just picked it off.”

    The Vikings, of course, are hoping Rhodes can duplicate that when the competition is tougher than this weekend, where all three quarterbacks and most of the receivers he’s facing are undrafted rookies with little chance of making a 53-man roster.

    If that’s the case, the Vikings might have a cornerback grab more than four interceptions for the first time since Brian Williams had five back in 2003.

    4. Linebacker balances eagerness with patience.

    Michael Mauti, a seventh-round pick out of Penn State, was on the field briefly Friday, participating in walk-through concepts with the defense. But 5½ months removed from surgery to repair his left anterior cruciate ligament, Mauti’s most notable moment was his formal introduction to head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and the Vikings’ medical staff.

    In the middle of ACL rehab for the third time since 2009, Mauti has a goal of being ready to practice when training camp opens. But he’s also trying to control his ambition and admits he’s eager to unite with a staff that has successfully aided the ACL rehabilitation of standouts such as Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway.

    “It’s all about not getting ahead of yourself,” Mauti said. “It’s about knowing where you’re at and having a feeling for your body. I think I’ve got a pretty good feel for that. I know how to push the envelope without going overboard.”

    Mauti has worked back to a point of being able to sprint and has transitioned into some light agility work. Having made successful comebacks from ACL injuries twice in college, he said he understands the process more than most.

    “I know what to do, when to do it, how to do it,” Mauti said. “I’m getting better at it each time, unfortunately.”

  2. #2

    Rookie could have punter job 'Locke-d up' by Monday

    Rookie could have punter job 'Locke-d up' by Monday
    Posted by: Dan Wiederer Updated: May 3, 2013 - 1:46 PM 62 commentsprint


    Shortly after drafting left-footed punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round last weekend, General Manager Rick Spielman insisted the move was made to bring in competition for eight-year vet Chris Kluwe and not necessarily to replace him immediately.
    “When we’re making decisions, we’re purely making them in trying to bring in the best competition possible regardless of position,” Spielman said.
    But that so-called punter “competition” may end this weekend with only Locke on the practice field for rookie mini-camp.
    As a reference point, after drafting kicker Blair Walsh in Round 6 in 2012, Spielman closely tracked Walsh during the team’s rookie mini-camp to make certain he could absorb some coaching while handling the pressure of kicking with all eyes on him.
    Walsh did just fine. And the day after the rookie mini-camp finished, veteran Ryan Longwell was released.
    So read between the lines when coach Leslie Frazier said Friday that this weekend’s monitoring of Locke is “very similar” to last year’s procedure with Walsh.
    “We just want to put him in different situations and see how he can respond,” Frazier said.
    Because the Vikings' rookie mini-camp was moved indoors due to weather Friday, Locke spent the morning down at Mall of America Field punting with special teams coach Mike Priefer away from any audience. So we have no early eyewitness report on how he kicked.
    But assuming he doesn’t suffer an injury or experience a mental breakdown this weekend, he should have the punting job all to himself soon. Maybe as soon as Monday evening.
    It’s no surprise Kluwe is already looking ahead to life elsewhere. He will meet with Spielman on Monday and both sides have agreed that if Locke is the preference – and the rookie would sure seem to have the inside track given his draft status – there will be no point in dragging out the break-up.
    Cutting Kluwe sooner rather than later would give him greater opportunity to catch on elsewhere. It would also allow the Vikings to provide quick closure to a storyline that could prove controversial and annoying if it’s drawn out too long.

  3. #3
    Minnesota Vikings: Rookie punter Jeff Locke's first day 'went really well'
    By Ben Goessling
    bgoessling@pioneerpress.com
    Posted: 05/03/2013 12:01:00 AM CDT
    Updated: 05/03/2013 08:05 PM CDT


    California Golden Bears punter Jeff Locke (18) in action during a game against UCLA, on October 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Rob Holt)

    It was snowing on Jeff Locke's first day as a member of the Vikings, and it became clear quickly the punter wasn't going to be able to get any work done outside. So the fifth-round draft pick and special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer took a road trip.

    Locke spent the morning working out at the Metrodome with Priefer on Friday, May 3, punting in the stadium before returning to Winter Park to practice holding for field goals and extra points on the first day of the Vikings' rookie camp.

    "It went really well," Locke said. "It was cool to see it for the first time, and I thought I punted really well today."

    The UCLA product is the highest-drafted punter in Vikings history, and he very well could replace veteran Chris Kluwe, possibly in the next few days.

    It wouldn't be an unprecedented move. When the Vikings drafted kicker Blair Walsh last year, they cut veteran Ryan Longwell the day after their rookie camp ended.

    Kluwe, who has become well-known around the country due to his advocacy for same-sex marriage, posted a career-high net average of 39.7 yards per punt last year. But that was only the 17th-best in the league, and Kluwe ranked 31st in the league after pinning just 18 punts inside the 20-yard line.

    The left-footed Locke led the Pac-12 with 34 punts inside the 20-yard line last year, and drilled 21 punts inside the 10. He said he worked with Priefer on directional punting Friday, trying to land punts inside the 20.

    Of Priefer, Locke said:

    "He's great. We get to work every day. We don't waste any time. We come in and work on everything -- all the small points and the technique. Even today, we were going through holding, nitpicking on everything. I like him a lot."

  4. #4
    Just the business side of the NFL....replacing a guy for probably a 3rd of the money, and probably getting a more consistent punter. Tough to find fault with it, and in fact Kluwe...while good by Vikings standards on punters...wasn't that great vis a vis the rest of the league

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedMcCombs View Post
    Just the business side of the NFL....replacing a guy for probably a 3rd of the money, and probably getting a more consistent punter. Tough to find fault with it, and in fact Kluwe...while good by Vikings standards on punters...wasn't that great vis a vis the rest of the league
    He definitely hasn't been as sharp the past couple of seasons. Hopefully Locke looks as good as advertised. I'd love to see the punting game be back to Kluwe's early career when he booted 50 yarders with regularity and had good directional ability.

    Pinning people inside the 20 is one of the most underrated parts of the game. A strong legged accurate punter can be the team MVP with fair consistency. Unsung hero but, they basically QB the field position battle.

  6. #6
    Think it's looking more and more that Monday will be Kluwe's last day with the Vikes will be Monday. Thanks, he was good and nice to have him

    I"m excited about this left footed guy. He also can kick off, something Kluwe couldn't do. And he also holds (like Kluwe), seems to have a strong leg but also very good at dropping the ball inside the 20...something Kluwe was so so at.

    Spielman and team made the right call last year with Walsh over Longwell, I am gonna give them the benefit of the doubt they make the same right call on Locke over Kluwe. Time will tell...

  7. #7
    Scoggins: If Kluwe is cut, the loss will be ours
    Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune Updated: May 5, 2013 - 12:03 AM
    The punter isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and yes, that is a good thing.


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    Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
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    Chris Kluwe’s tenure as Vikings punter will end soon. He knows it, the team knows it, everyone knows it. It’s just a matter of executing the paperwork.

    “Most teams generally don’t draft a punter in the fifth round unless that’s who they’re going to go with,” Kluwe said. “They said they would let me know Monday after the rookie minicamp.”

    Kluwe’s fate was sealed the moment the Vikings drafted UCLA punter Jeff Locke. General Manager Rick Spielman talked about creating competition, but Kluwe won’t be around long enough to participate in that competition.

    Unless Locke flops in the rookie minicamp or assumes the fetal position over the prospect of being inside an NFL locker room, the job is his and Kluwe moves on.

    Regardless of whether they admit it, the Vikings are jettisoning Kluwe partly because they grew tired of his outspokenness. It’s naive to think the move is based solely on his age (31), salary ($1.45 million) or how he performed last season (inconsistently). Kluwe has become the most visible punter in NFL history because of his social activism. The Vikings deny that Kluwe’s public stance on issues factored into their decision — not that they would ever admit it — but they likely prefer someone who embraces the anonymous life of an NFL punter.

    That’s entirely their prerogative, of course. Teams release players all the time for any number of reasons. The Vikings unloaded Percy Harvin because they basically thought he was a head case and too unpredictable.

    Kluwe has developed a wide audience and become a polarizing figure as a staunch advocate for same-sex marriage. Whether it’s gay rights, player safety or Ray Guy’s omission from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Kluwe isn’t afraid to voice his opinion. And he refuses to apologize for that, even if it contributes to his exit.

    “This is me,” he said. “I pay attention to what goes on in the world, and I like to speak up when I see something.”

    Kluwe’s expected release could result in some backlash by fans who applaud his support of same-sex marriage. A handful of teams need punters, so he could find a job elsewhere. Kluwe also understands that teams might pass on him because they view him as a distraction. He believes he has four or five good seasons left as a punter, but he refuses to muffle his activism just to get a job.

    “I think the sacrifice would be worth it,” he said. “Now, I would hope that I would get the chance to play football again, because I think I can still play. But if it ends up being something that costs me that position, I think making people aware of an issue that is causing children to commit suicide is more important than kicking a leather ball.”

    Kluwe’s support of same-sex marriage has landed him appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show’’ and “The Colbert Report.’’ He’s been interviewed by CNN, MSNBC and the BBC and posed for OUT Magazine. He has nearly 170,000 Twitter followers (about 40,000 more than Christian Ponder). Name another NFL team in which the punter has more Twitter followers than the quarterback.

    Kluwe’s departure will make the Vikings locker room a lot more dull because he is incredibly intelligent, articulate and passionate about societal issues. He’s a fascinating individual in a sport that breeds conformity. The NFL has become so big and so powerful that players often cling to political correctness for fear that a ripple might swell into a tidal wave. Kluwe is that surfer dude on top of the wave, hanging 10 on any issue that stirs his emotion.

    “No single thing that I do defines me as a person,” he said. “Just because I play football, that doesn’t define me as a person.”

    OK, he can be a little rebellious, too. In response to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer’s public admonishment that Kluwe needs to “focus on punting” after his Ray Guy uniform display, Kluwe began finishing tweets with the hashtag #sofocused. But it’s absurd when people blame a bad punt on the belief that Kluwe is too distracted by his activism.

    “When I’m at the facility, I’m concentrating 100 percent on my job because that’s what I’m being paid to do,” Kluwe said. “But when I’m away from the facility, I’m no longer at my job. I get to live my life. This idea that you have to spend 24 hours a day thinking about your job frankly is unhealthy. It’s insane.”

    Kluwe enjoys myriad pursuits. He has written his first book that’s scheduled to be released June 25. The book is titled “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies” and features a collection of short stories and essays based on rational empathy.

    “Societies that don’t nurture empathy as a worthwhile trait inevitably collapse because they foster discord and conflict within themselves, and that eventually brings them down,” he said.

    Kluwe envisions a writing career post-football. He’s also been contacted by political operatives to gauge his interest in politics. “I hate politics,” he noted.

    He’s not ready to turn the page on football just yet, though. He believes he can still do the job effectively.

    “My career averages are good,” he said. “It’s not like I’ve been scraping by. I really hope that I get a chance to catch on with someone else.”

    So do I. The NFL is simply more interesting with Chris Kluwe in it.



    Chip Scoggins ascoggins@startribune.com

  8. #8
    I don't mind seeing him go, although he'll be running his mouth about gay marriage (or whatever else gets him some attention) on his next team too. It's not like we won't hear it any more. And of course more and more NFL players will take the bait to support such issues pretty soon. People who think that's charming will not be affected. People like myself, on the other hand, will quit watching football and/or other sports. Football is the only sport I follow personally.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyperborean View Post
    I don't mind seeing him go, although he'll be running his mouth about gay marriage (or whatever else gets him some attention) on his next team too. It's not like we won't hear it any more. And of course more and more NFL players will take the bait to support such issues pretty soon. People who think that's charming will not be affected. People like myself, on the other hand, will quit watching football and/or other sports. Football is the only sport I follow personally.
    I don't really think he does what he does for personal attention. I don't really see how gay marriage, as a debate or an issue in itself, necessarily has anything to do with football or watching football either.

  10. #10
    I guess we'll know by end of today. I'd say odds are pretty high Kluwe was gone. He'll have no problem catching on somewhere else, and I'm sure he'll do well.

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