After four seasons of having Ryan Longwell handle kickoffs and field goals, the Vikings are prepared to alter their approach by carrying two kickers on their 53-man roster. Former Gopher Rhys Lloyd was signed to a two-year contract this week with the intention that he will be the team's kickoff specialist in 2010.
"I think Rhys was just another guy that has a unique trait, a unique quality and we were kind of surprised when he did not get tendered [by Carolina]," said Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel. "We looked at that, looked at the Longwell situation. Ryan’s going to be our field-goal kicker and Ryan has done very well in that aspect.
But it’s just like coach likes to say, adding another tool to the toolbox."
Lloyd served as the Panthers’ kickoff specialist the past two years and led the NFL with 30 touchbacks in 2008. He had 21 last season. Longwell was second in the NFL in field-goal percentage in 2009 but had only five touchbacks.
"I think he’s certainly a weapon," Childress said of Lloyd. "He’s a strong-legged guy. Our coverage teams obviously have a direct effect on where we put our defense on the field. We know from having a very good return guy [in Percy Harvin] that that’s where you put the offense on the field. It’s nice to be able to back them up when you can and if we can get somebody to kick it through the end zone consistently there is no downside to that."
The Vikings saw an example of this in the playoffs when Dallas and New Orleans both used kickoff specialists to keep the ball away from Harvin as much as possible.
Asked about the type of impact that might have had on the team's thinking, Spielman said: "I think it's just another thing that you look at in the special teams phase. You have to look at our schedule, too, going into next year. Where our aways games are. We don't know when we're going to be playing in those situations and, plus, we do kick in a dome and usually it's a little bit more appealing when you have an opportunity to kick in a dome."
Spielman, meanwhile, declined to say if Lloyd was seen as Longwell’s eventual replacement on field goals. "Right now what we’re concerned about is just getting good players in here and then all that stuff will figure itself out," Spielman said.
-- Childress on the loss of versatile backup Artis Hicks to Washington in free agency: “He had position flexibility. You hear me say that over and over again. It’s nice for a guy to be not just a single position guy. That’s the first time Artis has been in free agency and he got paid. We exchanged back and forth. I’m happy for him and his family. He was part of us starting to build this thing. We’ll have to replace him at some point and time but we’ll see how we end up doing that. Whether it’s someone that’s currently on a roster, within the draft.”
-- Childress on the decision to re-sign cornerback Benny Sapp, who was a free agent: “He’s a position flexibility guy. He’s a guy that is able to step inside and play in the nickel as well as play outside at either spot. Being able to do that is huge for us and once again I’m happy for Benny and his family.”