Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Spielman: Drafting punter `has nothing to do with Chris Kluwe off the field'

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: April 27, 2013 - 8:38 PM

As you might expect, the first question from the media to Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman at the conclusion of the third and final day of the draft today was whether the fifth-round selection of UCLA punter Jeff Locke had anything to do with all the attention that veteran punter Chris Kluwe draws as a social activist and strong supporter of gay marriage rights. 

"It has nothing to do with anything Chris Kluwe is off the field," Spielman said. "When we're making decisions, we're purely making them based on trying to bring in the best competition possible, regardless of position. This was just another normal personnel move.

"It had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe off the field. I have no issues with [Kluwe]. If Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion, that's his right. That's his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to compete." 

A year ago, the Vikings drafted kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round. The Vikings said he was brought in to compete with veteran Ryan Longwell. But Longwell was cut a week later after the team's rookie mini-camp.

Spielman was asked if that could happen with Kluwe this year.

"I'm not going to comment on anything right now," Spielman said. "We just finished the draft and signing college free agents. We'll sit down with the coaches and analyze where we're at with everything. But right now, going forward, we expect that to be a competition."

As for Locke, the first punter or kicker drafted, Spielman listed five things that set him apart from the other punters in the draft.

"One was the character," Spielman said. "Two, he's a left-footed punter which helps [create an unusual spin]. Three, he's a great directional kicker. Four, he's excellent in getting the ball inside the 20. He's a very good holder, a good athlete."


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