Hartman: Kluwe safe despite recent difficulties

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 1, 2012 - 9:34 PM

The longtime Vikings punter has had back-to-back poor performances, but his job is not in jeopardy.

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Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.

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Chris Kluwe is not in danger of losing his job despite the Vikings punter's recent difficulties, according to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.

The Vikings punter since 2005 averaged only 37.8 yards on his six punts in the team's most recent game against Tampa Bay, and the game before that against Arizona wasn't much better, as he averaged 40.0 yards on seven punts. The Vikings brought in a punter named Brian Stahovich for a tryout Monday.

"Chris has punted inconsistently at times this year, but he's going to make the corrections necessary to get back to the level that he's punted at before and earlier this year," Priefer said.

Priefer added that at this point, the bulk of the work in correcting the problem is on Kluwe's shoulders.

"I'm used to working with younger punters, so those guys will usually take corrections a little more readily, I guess," Priefer said. "Chris is a pro and he's been doing this a long time, and he knows when he makes mistakes. When we watch it together I might point some things out and we go from there."

What might concern the Vikings is that Kluwe is currently posting the lowest average number of punts placed inside the 20-yard line since his rookie season. He's at 27 percent this year (10 of 37) and has been under 30 percent the past two seasons -- after five consecutive seasons over 30 percent, including a career high of 42 percent inside the 20 in 2007 (34 of 81).

Throughout his career, Kluwe has been extremely consistent with his average yards per punt. His lowest average came in 2006 at 42.3 and his highest came in 2008 at 47.6. This year, he has averaged 43.8 yards per punt, which would be the third-lowest average of his career -- but it's worth nothing that he averaged 43.0 yards per punt in 2010, and his average this year is only a half-yard off his career mark of 44.3 yards per punt.

Kluwe's worst two games this season are his two most recent ones. That fact might be what led the Vikings to try out Stahovich.

But Kluwe said he wasn't concerned.

"No, I've approached every week that if I don't perform, they're going to cut me," said Kluwe, who also has been an outstanding holder during his Vikings career. "It's just part of the business. It's nothing personal, if they don't think I'm performing, then they'll try to find someone who can."

Kluwe, 31, said his problem has been mechanical, and he has been rushing himself. He said he just needs to slow down and hit the ball like he knows he can hit it. But he won't be trying any drastic changes.

"Nope, same practice schedule. There's only so many kicks you can make in a day before your leg falls off," he said. "I approach that limit pretty much every day I punt. Just focusing on the little things, and hopefully it will show in Seattle this week.

"If you don't know what you're doing at this point, then the odds are you're probably never going to figure it out. That's pretty consistent around the league, that if you're a punter or kicker, you have to know what you're doing.

"I mean you look at anyone's season, and they have bad games. Statistically, this hasn't been a terrible year, you know, I'm pretty close to normal numbers. It's just I had that 20-yarder [against Tampa Bay], and you never want to have one of those, and it made it worse."

U.S. Bank Stadium

The odds are strong that U.S. Bank will win the new Vikings stadium naming rights.

U.S. Bancorp President Richard K. Davis worked hard among the business community to get the stadium funded and formed a very close friendship with the Wilf family, owners of the Vikings.

People close to U.S. Bank claim that one time the late Carl Pohlad, owner of the Twins, had promised the naming rights to U.S. Bank in the early talks of trying to get their stadium built.

If you want to speculate on the name of the construction company that will build the Vikings stadium, Mortenson Construction, builders of the TCF Bank Stadium, or Mezzetta Inc., builders of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, are good bets. Lucas Oil pays $6.1 million annually for the rights over 20 years.

Robinson looks ready

It's interesting that Michigan, which beat the Gophers 58-0 in Ann Arbor last year, is only a 12 1/2-point favorite Saturday, according to the Las Vegas sports books.

During his Thursday radio show appearance, Michigan coach Brady Hoke spoke on the availability of Heisman Trophy candidate Denard Robinson, the Wolverines quarterback who completed 15 of 19 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 51 yards and another TD against the Gophers last year. Robinson has a nerve injury in his elbow that knocked him out of last week's game.

"We feel real good [about Robinson playing Saturday]," Hoke said. "He's gotten better each day, feels better each day. It's a little bit of a different injury, but it's come back this time a little slower [in terms of recovery] but he feels real good."

The Wolverines don't have a strong backup QB. If Robinson can't play, the Gophers have an outside chance to win.

Jottings

• Once a Vikings stadium is built, look for ownership to build a new office and practice complex. Asked about it the other day, Mark Wilf, owner and president of the team, said, "We need something nicer and something bigger." Vikings executives and ownership have been looking at sites in the Eden Prairie area for a new practice facility.

• Twins General Manager Terry Ryan on his attempt to sign free-agent pitching: "You don't necessarily have to be talking about a guy up in that $100 million range to get a decent free-agent pitcher. There are people out there that should be affordable that we should be able to go after."

• The Gophers wrestling team has been ranked No. 1 by USA Today/NWCA coaches poll and No.3 by InterMat Wrestling. In the NWCA All-Star Classic in Chicago this Saturday, an event that showcases top wrestlers from around the country, two Gophers will participate: two-time All-America and Big Ten champion Kevin Steinhaus at 184 pounds and All-America sophomore Chris Daralanes at 133.

• Waterloo's Taylor Cammarata (Plymouth) and Justin Kloos (Lakeville), both Gophers recruits, are tied for the USHL lead in scoring with 17 points. Kloos has 10 goals, Cammarata nine.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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