Special teams coach tires of Kluwe

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG and DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: December 14, 2012 - 6:58 AM
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Vikings punter Chris Kluwe customized his jersey with a personal appeal on behalf of Raiders punter Ray Guy's Hall of Fame bid on Sunday.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is a big fan of Ray Guy, but he's not a big fan of Vikings punter Chris Kluwe's ongoing campaign to get Guy voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a sign of respect for punters.

Asked jokingly if he was going to hide the tape so Kluwe couldn't write any more pro-Ray Guy messages on his uniform this Sunday, Priefer turned serious.

"Those distractions are getting old for me, to be honest with you," Priefer said. "Does Ray Guy deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there are other ways to go about doing it, in my opinion."

Asked if he's talked to Kluwe about it, Priefer said: "No. He won't listen."

Kluwe was an outspoken proponent of gay marriage rights in the fall. After Minnesota voters agreed with Kluwe, he turned his attention and his Twitter account to pushing Guy for the Hall of Fame while lambasting Hall of Fame selectors for not selecting a punter for enshrinement.

Kluwe went a step further last Sunday when players' uniforms bore a patch celebrating the Hall's 50th anniversary. Kluwe covered the patch with a piece of tape that had the words "Vote Ray Guy" on it. He was fined $5,250, which is the standard amount for a uniform violation. On Wednesday, he said the fine was worth it and continued his crusade in front of a group of reporters.

"To me, it's getting old," Priefer said. "He's got to focus on punting and holding."

Kluwe has always taken pride in not being defined by being a football player. He plays in a band, is a voracious reader and throws himself into civil rights discussions. So it's no surprise the pointed words from his coach were met with a shrug.

"All I can do is go out and punt to the best of my ability each game, and that's how I've always approached things," Kluwe wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "If the team ever wants to replace me, they will; I'm under no delusions as to how this business operates. We all get cut eventually."

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he has had conversations with Kluwe about buckling down as the games get more important.

"We've had some conversations, Chris and I," Frazier said. "Right now he knows the focus has to be on the St. Louis Rams. He's assured me that's where his focus is and we just have to keep moving forward."

At least one person is thankful that Kluwe has been willing to speak up.

Tracy Call, a Minneapolis advertising executive, helped recruit Kluwe into activism against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that Minnesota voters defeated last month. She formed a political group — Minnesotans for Equality — that paid to air a radio commercial where Kluwe urged defeat of the amendment.

"Chris always made it very clear there were times when we could not contact him, including Saturdays and game days," Call said. "When he was on the field, his mind was on the field. He's very focused and I think it's ridiculous to think otherwise just because he expresses opinions."

Call gave Kluwe huge credit for helping defeat the amendment.

"His message really hit home for a lot of people, a lot of people in the middle who didn't ever tune in on this issue before," Call said. "Frankly, I think we should have a parade for him."

Coach Leslie Frazier mentioned Thursday that he had talked to Kluwe about the message taped to his uniform. The patches will also be worn by every NFL player this weekend.

Kluwe told the Associated Press: "If the team ever wants to replace me, they will; I'm under no delusions as to how this business operates. We all get cut eventually."

Fighting through

This is the time of year when a lot of people in NFL circles talk about the "rookie wall" and how those first-year guys stop producing because their bodies are so used to the football season being over or in pre-bowl mode by now.

"Hitting the wall is something I think most rookies go through," Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "I think that is a real phenomena in terms of guys getting tired or disinterested."

The Vikings, however, are coming off a critical victory in which a pair of rookies helped lead the way. Safety Harrison Smith returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown, while cornerback Josh Robinson returned another one 44 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown drive in a 21-14 win over the Bears.

"Both of those guys are coming along very well," Williams said. "Harrison has been consistent from Day 1 and has never played like a rookie. And Josh is starting to play consistent football with the number of reps that he's getting. We're pleased that both guys are making plays and not hurting you. Most rookies hurt you when they play, and ours are not. They're actually helping us and contributing to us winning football games."

Allen balks

You know that idea NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has to expand the playoffs, maybe to 14 teams, perhaps even 16? Vikings defensive end Jared Allen thinks that proposal is "stupid."

"It's a dumb idea," Allen said. "The reason our league is so much better than other leagues, I think, is because of that competition. Every game means something. There are 162 games in baseball and you're like, 'Ehhh.' No one really watches until the end, right? Basketball, same way. There's no real significance on every game.

"And I think you damage the sport if an 8-8 team [has a greater playoff chance]. You know what I mean? Now our games become less significant each week if you know, like, 'Oh, I can still lose half my games and sneak into the playoffs.'"

Etc.

• Cornerback A.J. Jefferson has cleared his concussion tests and practiced on Thursday. He won't return kickoffs, Priefer said, adding that punt-return man Marcus Sherels will likely be the kickoff returner.

 

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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