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Monday, August 24, 2015

Minnesota Vikings Kicker, Punter & Snapper News

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August 24, 205 - long snapper Cullen Loeffler released
The Vikings brought in competition for Cullen Loeffler for the first time since 2005, his second year in the league. Loeffler lost that battle, as he's been cut by the Vikings in his 12th preseason with the team. Loeffler, the longest-tenured Viking at 34 years old, was re-signed to a one-year deal in March, before the Vikings added Kevin McDermott on a two-year deal in April.  'These types of decisions are the hardest part of our jobs,' general manager Rick Spielman said in a release. 'Cullen was outstanding in the community and on the field for the Vikings. He handled his business with class and his impact in the locker room and on the franchise were second to none. We wish him the best in the future.' McDermott and Loeffler had swapped snaps during three exhibitions and the Vikings have apparently seen enough to make the first change at the position in over a decade. McDermott, 25, played with punter Jeff Locke at UCLA. He's set to make a $585,000 base salary this season, compared to Loeffler's $970,000." - ESPN

July 26, 2015 - kicker Blair Walsh signs 4-year extension
"NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports it's a four-year extension worth up to $14 million with $5.25 million guaranteed, according to a source informed of the situation. The deal makes Walsh one of the five-highest paid kickers in the game.... Walsh earned first-team All-Pro honors as a rookie, when he set an NFL record with 10 consecutive field goals of at least 50 yards. His accuracy dipped last season, when he converted just 26 of 35 attempts, a league-low conversion rate of 74.3." - NFL

April 3, 2015 - long snapper Kevin McDermott signed
"The Minnesota Vikings are looking for competition at long snapper. Though long-time long snapper Cullen Loeffler is back on a one-year deal, the Vikings are signing long snapper Kevin McDermott to a one-year deal, according to a league source. McDermott, 25, left UCLA in the same class as Vikings punter Jeff Locke, who was drafted in the fifth round (155th overall) by Minnesota. McDermott went undrafted and won the starting job for the San Francisco 49ers out of training camp. He was most recently with the Baltimore Ravens, joining in October after their long snapper tore an ACL." - ESPN

March 8, 2014 - long snapper Cullen Loeffler re-signed for another year
"The Minnesota Vikings have struck a one-year deal to hold onto long snapper Cullen Loeffler, according to a league source. Loeffler was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. The veteran long snapper was signed originally by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2004 after playing at Texas." - National Football Post

December 14, 2014 - Blair Walsh misses trio in loss to Lions 
"A week after he made only one of his three field-goal attempts in an overtime victory over the New York Jets, Walsh missed all three of his attempts in a 16-14 loss to the Detroit Lions, including two in the final eight minutes of the game. 'I’m still confident. I know my abilities. I know how I’ve done in the past,' said Walsh, who as a rookie was a first-team All-Pro kicker in 2012. 'Yeah, we’ve missed a bunch the last two games and we do need to make up for that. But I think if you really break it down, I don’t think there are any fundamental flaws going on. It’s something I can easily fix.' Walsh’s first miss came in the first quarter, when he pushed a 53-yard attempt wide right. His second field-goal attempt, a 26-yarder that could have increased the team’s lead to 17-13 in the fourth quarter, was blocked by Lions defensive end Jason Jones. And his final try, which came with one second left, was well short from 68 yards out. Walsh said he lobbied the coaching staff to allow him to kick it. Had Walsh made that improbable game-winner, it would have been the longest field goal in NFL history.  'The one you really, really look back on is [the 53-yarder],' Walsh said. Walsh has uncharacteristically missed nine of his 31 field-goal tries this season, but Vikings coach Mike Zimmer endorsed his kicker after the game — as if giving Walsh a chance to win the game from midfield hadn’t already said enough. 'I have not lost any confidence in him,' Zimmer said. 'At the end of the ballgame, he hit it pretty good. I thought it had a chance'." - Minneapolis Star Tribune

December 7, 2014 - Blair Walsh misses pair in win over Jets 
"Walsh, who had been 5 of 6 for the Vikings on attempts of 50 yards or more, had a chance to beat the New York Jets and tie his career long with a 56-yard boot on the last play of regulation. But Walsh missed badly short and to the right. Walsh also missed a 39-yard attempt wide right in the third quarter. Yet his Vikings were able to beat the Jets 30-24 in overtime at TCF Bank Stadium. 'I just didn't give it a shot,' Walsh said of the miss at the end of regulation. 'I didn't hit it real solid. There was a right-to-left wind going that way all day and I wanted to leave it out right and let it come back in. But I didn't hit a good enough ball for it even to go that way.' The 39-yard miss really rankled Walsh. That's a chip shot for the third-year kicker who entered the game 9 of 10 on the season from 40 yards or less. 'Of course, you expect yourself to make that,' Walsh said. 'It's just something you learn from. I'm glad my teammates were there to pick me up and I'll get better'."- Twin Cities 

November 16, 2014 - Blair Walsh connects long, misses short 
Blair Walsh was money again from long range, burying a 50-yard field goal Sunday to give the Vikings an early 3-0 lead over the Bears. But his 38-yard miss in the third quarter, which would have closed Chicago's lead to 14-13, left Walsh at a loss. 'It's almost one of those kicks you can't believe you missed,' he said. Walsh pushed his attempt wide right, just as Bears kicker Robbie Gould did from 40 yards in the same direction in the first quarter. 'For some reason, going into the kick I just wasn't very confident,' Walsh said. 'I've got to do better, especially kicking from the middle of the field. I shouldn't have missed it'.... It was his shortest miss of the season. Overall, Walsh is 17 for 21 (80.9 percent), including 4-for-5 from 50-plus yards." - Twin Cities 

September 28, 2014 - Blair Walsh hits four field goals, including 55 yarder 
The Vikings money kicker acknowledged he overcompensated for a strong cross wind in pushing a 49-yard attempt wide right early in the second quarter. So when he lined up in the same direction for a 55-yarder with 3:38 remaining and Minnesota ahead by seven points, Walsh bore down on the pivotal kick with nary a thought about the breeze. And he buried it. 'Regardless of what the wind was doing, it was going to be in my face a little bit so I wanted to just drive it there,' Walsh said. 'I knew my natural height would get it there. I had it in my head I didn't want to hit it like the one earlier.' Walsh, who also converted kicks of 18, 41 and 33 yards, did not try to convince himself the 55-yarder was just another attempt. 'You don't want to trick yourself,' he said. 'You want to embrace (the moment), understand what it is, the situation. I knew if I made that kick, we're most likely winning that game.' Walsh is 9 of 11 in field goals this season. His only misses are from 40-49 yards." - St. Paul Pioneer Press 

August 21, 2014 - stadium update
"As Minnesota adjusts to playing outside full-time for the next two years at the University of Minnesota, Walsh and punter Jeff Locke feel they have a good handle on dealing with the elements. The two made four trips to TCF Bank Stadium this summer, tracking wind conditions in the open-air stadium and producing wind charts. Walsh couldn't have had better conditions in two preseason games, yet he's missed twice from beyond 50 yards and also missed an extra-point attempt, the equivalent of a 33-yard field goal due to the NFL's experimental longer extra-point attempts. 'If it was one of those deals where he was shanking the ball, if he was wrapping his foot, he was pushing the ball too far to the right every time, I'd be concerned,' special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. 'But he's hitting the ball well. Even in games, he hit the ball well. . . . It's one of those things he's just got to continue to focus on his follow-through and the little small attributes that make him such a great kicker compared to the other kickers in this league'.... Walsh and Locke, perhaps more than any other Minnesota players, endure the biggest transition in moving to TCF Bank Stadium. Not only is TCF Bank Stadium an outdoor facility with a wide bowl, but the west end of the stadium is open. 'I think almost every kicker would agree that when you have a single open end, it can cause some different things to happen aside from a regular stadium,' Locke said. 'You can get a lot of whipping affect and some inconsistencies with the wind when you have an open end to the stadium. It always changes things up a little bit'." - Fox Sports

August 18, 2014 - kicker Blair Walsh anti-streak 
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh set an NFL record converting his first 12 field goals of 50-plus yards. He is 0 for 5 since midseason 2013, unofficially considering two of those misses have come this season. Add a missed extra-point from the experimental 33-yard distance Saturday night against Arizona, and Walsh has been uncharacteristically erratic. 'I don't know that I attribute it to anything yet,' coach Mike Zimmer said Monday. "He's been great in practice, and he's been great previously. I expect him to make those kicks, and I'm sure he will.' Walsh, the 2012 Pro Bowler entering his third season, was 8 for 8 during last week's final scrimmage and converted all of his kicks from 50 or more yards during special teams drills in Mankato." - St. Paul Pioneer Press 

August 16, 2014 - kicker Blair Walsh misses a few
"A miss from 53 yards last week is followed by a missed 51-yarder and a missed extra point this week. What is happening with the misses? Granted, two of them were from 50 yards. Also, it should be noted that Walsh was hitting from 65 yards in pregame warmups on Saturday and he’s been nothing short of perfect in training camp, particularly in the evening practices, where he’s gone 22 for 22 on field goal tries." - Vikings

August 1, 2014 - kicker Blair Walsh working on little things
"Now that you're in your third Training Camp and you're a grizzled veteran, what are the little things you're trying to work on during these practices? Blair Walsh: "Just a lot of form stuff. You can't kick every day because you'll get tired real quick and it would be tough to maintain that. But we're out here working on form stuff trying to perfect our technique." What about your technique are you trying to improve? Is it plant foot placement, how you swing your leg, where you're focusing? "Little stuff. I want to get better at right hash kicks. I've been working a lot on that the past couple days. Putting the ball directionally on kickoffs better. There's little things that you're always getting better at that you learn really matter." - Daily Norseman

June 15, 2014 - kicker Blair Walsh a tamed housecoat?
While the new stadium, host of the Super Bowl in 2018, is being constructed the team head outdoors to the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank stadium for two seasons. ‘I’m just trying to get better at trying to manage the weather conditions outside,’ said Walsh of the conditions he will face. ‘I’ve been a tamed housecoat for the past couple of years and you’ve got to grow up and go outside. It should be fun. We’ve been down there a couple of times in practice already to let us know what it’s all about. We’ve had some good practice of playing in the cold weather in the last couple of years: we had a game in Green Bay, that was in the mid teens and we played in a complete blizzard in Baltimore so we’ve had some good quality work in the snow and the cold, so I’m much more concerned about the open conditions and the wind rather than the cold'." - Daily Mail

May 20, 2014 - punter Garrett Maloney invited to minicamp
"Graduating St. Thomas football players Garrett Maloney and Willie Schneider received invitations to compete for a roster spot on the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts, respectively, last Monday.... Maloney, a punter, was selected for the All-MIAC team twice and was a preseason All-American in 2013.... Maloney, who is from Elm Grove, Wisconsin, and attended Marquette High School, is a marketing major. Not only did Maloney play football while at St. Thomas, but also spent some time on the hardwood as a member of the 2011 national champion St. Thomas basketball team." - Tommie Media

April 29, 2014 - Blair Walsh & Jeff Locke investigate stadium conditions
"The Vikings special teams unit is already trying to get acclimated with its new home at TCF Bank Stadium, which can be a challenge. The wind intensifies in the horseshoe-shaped stadium and can create headaches for punters and kickers. So Blair Walsh and Jeff Locke paid a visit to the stadium before the university began installing the new turf and reached out to a few Gophers to swap notes. Walsh said the idea came from Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer at the end of last season. Walsh and Locke reached out to redshirt junior punter Peter Mortell and former Gophers kicker Chris Hawthorne, who started last season. 'The field is definitely not conducive to hit straight balls,' Walsh said. 'The ball is going to move no matter what with that wind, but you can definitely conquer it, master it and sort of make it your advantage. And that’s the way we’re going to have to look at it from a positive outlook on it.'... Hawthorne said it’s difficult to judge distance on kicks because the wind will make the ball spin quicker. Walsh said the wind doesn’t impact field goals inside 40 yards, but he noticed the wind coming over the scoreboard when kicking from 45 yards." - Star Tribune

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