Vikings: Punter Kluwe has been the long and short of it this year

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 21, 2007 - 8:47 PM

Chris Kluwe tied a team record for touch in the season opener and set a team record for length in the second game.

Quick. Name the best and most productive player on the Vikings' 53-man roster.

Leading rusher Adrian Peterson? Top tackler E.J. Henderson? Interception leader Darren Sharper?

All good answers. But none of them has used the first two games of the season to break a franchise record one week and tie another one the next.

Can you name him? Here are some hints: He's tall, skinny and, when he puts his glasses on, well, he's basically Harry Potter.

Meet Chris Kluwe, punter and team MVP heading into Sunday's game at Kansas City.

"I wouldn't go that far," said Kluwe, laughing. "But I do feel like I worked some things out in the preseason and got in a groove in that first game."

Ya think?

In Week 1, a 24-3 victory over Atlanta at the Metrodome, Kluwe tied a team record with five punts inside the 20-yard line. It's a feat accomplished only four other times in team history, the last coming from Mitch Berger on Dec. 24, 2000, at Indianapolis.

In Week 2, a 20-17 overtime loss at Detroit's Ford Field, Kluwe broke the team record for gross average (57.5), kicking the ball four times for 230 yards. Berger set the previous mark of 55.8 yards on Nov. 15, 1998, at home against Cincinnati.

"It's funny, because usually each game, you get a mix of punts you have to make inside the 20 and punts you have to hit farther," Kluwe said.

"But each game has been completely different. It's allowed me to focus on only one situation in each game. That was kind of cool."

Kluwe heads into his first outdoor game of the season ranked third in the NFL in gross punting (46.7). The Vikings rank tied for ninth in net punting average (40.0).

"I definitely think punters get into a zone to where they don't think they can be stopped," Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler said. "It's kind of like a good shooter on a basketball team. When they're hot, they're hot. They can't miss."

Kluwe came out of nowhere basically when the Vikings claimed him off waivers after he was released by Seattle right before the start of the 2005 season. A rookie that year, he earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Month in his first 30 days in the league. No other rookie in Vikings' history has won an NFL Player of the Month award.

Kluwe led all rookie punters and was second in the NFC with a gross average of 44.1 yards in 2005. Last year, while working his way back from surgery on his right knee, his average dipped to 42.3, although he did tie team records for most punts of 50 yards or more (22) and most punts inside the 20 (28).

"I'd say right now I'm back to about on par with my first season," Kluwe said. "I felt OK physically last year, but mentally and techniquewise, I wasn't there."

Kluwe and special teams coach Paul Ferraro decided after last season to alter Kluwe's practice schedule. He makes fewer punts in practice and he spreads them out so that he's able to spend more time concentrating on each one.

"I tend to kick a lot of footballs," Kluwe said. "This saves my leg a bit and makes me focus rather than just going rapid fire at each one of them."

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