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 mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Frazier downplays working out punter, but Kluwe gets message

Posted by: Mark Craig under Off the field, Vikings, NFC, Leslie Frazier, Chris Kluwe, Leslie Frazier, Sidney Rice Updated: October 31, 2012 - 1:17 PM

Coach Leslie Frazier downplayed the significance of the team's decision to work out Brian Stahovich and other free agent punters just five days after Chris Kluwe's poor performance helped put the Vikings in an early 10-0 hole en route to 36-17 loss to Tampa Bay at Mall of America Field.

"We worked out some different guys [Tuesday]," Frazier said. "We worked out some linemen, some punters. We worked out a defensive back over the weekend. We worked out different positions. It's something we'll do throughout the season. We'll probably bring in some guys next week as well.

"[General Manager] Rick [Spielman] and the personnel department do a great job of just helping us to have a rolodex of players that could be avialable if we have an injury or something else occurs. It's something that will we ongoing for us through the year, bringing in guys. We've always done that."

Kluwe has been one of the best punters in team history since signing as a free agent in 2005. Thursday was one of the worst performances of his career. He averaged just 37.8 yards on six punts. His second punt was a 20-yard shank out of bounds. The Bucs got the ball at their 42-yard line and turned the short field into a field goal

"Chris is a pro," Frazier said. "He'll figure this out. Between [special teams coordinator] Mike Priefer and our staff, he'll come through it. He's been in this league for awhile now. He knows how to look at himself and look at tape and figure things out. Mike always does a great job with him so he'll get through this."

Frazier said he doesn't think Kluwe's political activism has anything to do with Thursday's poor performance on national prime-time television.

"He's been able to deal with so many things in his career," Frazier said. "He's able to focus in these situations on the task at hand. He's been a very good punter, which he is. So I don't think anything off the field is distracting him. He knows how to focus on his job. We fully expect him to have a big game for us on Sunday."

Kluwe said the team's decision to work out punters doesn't bother him.

"That's the way the NFL is run," he said. "It's nothing personal. If they feel I'm not performing my job, they will find someone who can.

"I just approach each week the same way. That I'm going to try and do the best job possible. The way I've always approached this job is I will be cut if I don't perform. There's no extra incentive there because that's the way I've always viewed it."

Kluwe said his problem Thursday is easily correctable.

"I'm just going too fast and not letting myself get situated with my drop," Kluwe said. "So that leads to an inconsistent drop and just not hitting the ball well. Just try to slow myself down and not rush myself and just hit the ball the way I know I can hit it.

"It's just correcting some minor things and then going out and hitting the ball consistently well, which I've been able to do for quite a while now. I just have to start doing it again."

Despite Frazier's attempt to downplay the significance, Kluwe said he knows why they worked out punters.

"The main problem is you can't have a 20-yard punt in the first quarter on a long field against a team and give them momentum like that," he said. "That can't happen in the NFL. I just have to have better punt there."

Kluwe also was asked for his reaction to the outcry via Twitter and elsewhere that he "just focus on football" rather than choose to be such an outspoken proponent of gay marriage rights.

"Generally, I just ignore them," Kluwe said. "I read all of them, but I don't really think about them. The funny thing is if you look at that argument, the basic foundation of that argument is why don't you worry more about a children's game than basic human rights. Yeah, generally I'm going to go with the basic human rights on that issue." 

Frazier still mulling cornerback decision: The assumption is cornerback Chris Cook's broken arm will force the Vikings to move Josh Robinson from nickel back to starter and A.J. Jefferson from dime back to nickel back. Hold on a second, says Frazier, who won't make that call until the end of the week.

Asked what he was looking for from the Cook and Jefferson, Frazier said, "The consistency in practice and who grasps the game plan the best and gives us the best chance at this stage of the season to go out and be effective at the cornerback position opposite Antoine [Winfield]."

Frazier said the coaches are leaning one way, although he wouldn't say which way.

"We have an idea of what direction we want to go," he said. "But we have to see how it goes in practice the next couple of days."

Vikings still have roster opening: The Vikings still haven't filled the roster spot that's been open since they put Cook on injured reserve on Friday. Frazier was asked if the team is waiting to make a move until Thursday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.

"It's different factors, without giving too much [information] away," Frazier said. "You want to do everything you can. I know [General Manager] Rick [Spielman] and our personnel department is doing everything we can to improve our team. You want to exhaust all avenues in doing that."

In other news:

  • Tight end John Carlson (concussion) still has not been cleared to particpate in practice.
  •  Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie won't practice today. His wife is having the couple's first child.
  • Receiver Michael Jenkins, who missed Monday's practice for personal reasons, returned and will practice today. 
  • Frazier on Seahawks receiver and former Vikings receiver Sidney Rice: "He's looking like the Sidney we remember. He's making a lot of plays down the field."
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