What wind? Rookie kicker Walsh handled first NFL action with poise

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  • August 13, 2012 - 1:42 PM

When Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer jogged onto the field in San Francisco for pre-game warm-ups Friday night, the first thing he felt was the breeze.

If it’s even fair to call such a swirling, uncomfortable wind a breeze.

Probably closer to a gale.

Yep, good ol’ Candlestick Park.

Yet Priefer didn’t bring the conditions up to his rookie kicker, Blair Walsh.

“I didn’t say a word,” Priefer said. “He kind of smiled at me when I first made eye contact with him. But I had gone out there early. And right away I was like ‘Oh God. This is going to be fun.’ But he did a real nice job in pre-game and he just didn’t worry about it.”

Walsh’s poise carried over to the game where he accounted for all of the Vikings’ points in their 17-6 loss to the 49ers, booting field goals of 39 and 26 yards – one on each side of the field.

“I think because he had such a good pre-game, that really helped him,” Priefer said. “He missed a few when he was experimenting with the cross-wind [before the game]. And then of course, the wind changed completely from the time we went in after pre-game to the time we went out when the game started.

Walsh also boomed three kickoffs, one out the back of the end zone for a touchback and the other two at least 7 yards deep that helped pin San Francisco inside the 20 to start those possessions. Not once did the rookie kicker seem frazzled.

“I was very proud of the way he reacted,” Priefer said. “Because I’ve been around young kickers before and their eyes get real big. Because they want to make a good impression, like any young player. And he did not [get wide eyes]. He came out and did a great job for us.”

Priefer also loved that Walsh spent the pre-game showing off his leg strength in close proximity to 49ers veteran David Akers. During one sequence, Akers came up short on a pre-game kick from about 55 yards. Just behind him, Walsh responded by hammering a kick from 60-plus.

“I love that competition,” Priefer said. “[While in Denver and Kansas City], I was in the AFC West with Shane Lechler and [Sebastian] Janikowski. And they did it every time we played them. They’d go out there and show off in pre-game. And of course, I had [Matt] Prater in Denver, who pretty much matched Janikowski. But this young man [Walsh] has a big-time leg. And I think the more confident he gets and the more success he has, the better kicker he’s going to be in the long run for us.”

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