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Walsh knows he has to improve in 2015, hopes to stay with Vikings

Blair Walsh isn’t sweating the NFL rule change that pushed back PATs.

The Vikings kicker also doesn’t seem too concerned with needing to get his groove back after what was statistically the shakiest season of his career.

“I just wanted to get back to the way I was hitting the ball,” the 25-year-old said. “I actually thought that I kicked the ball pretty decently last year.”

After missing just seven field goals in his first two seasons with the Vikings, Walsh uncharacteristically misfired on nine of his 35 field-goal tries in 2014. A few of those misses were from beyond 50 yards and a couple of kicks got Mutombo-ed at the line of scrimmage. But Walsh’s 74.3 percent success rate on field goals ranked last among 31 qualifying NFL kickers.

He feels those stats are “a little misleading” but knows he must be better.

“The 39-yarder I missed in the Jets game and the 38-yarder I missed in Chicago, that’s unacceptable to me and I have to be better there,” he said. “But there’s no wholesale changes that need to be made this offseason.”

Walsh’s uneven performance a season ago was certainly surprising after he followed up his All-Pro rookie season with another strong campaign in 2013. But there is no reason for the Vikings to panic — and they aren’t.

Walsh, who was a sixth-round pick in 2012, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He says the Vikings and his agent, Brian Mackler, have had “a little bit of communication” about a contract extension this spring.

“I would love to stay a Viking. This is the team that drafted me and put that faith in me to be an NFL kicker,” he said. “But at the same time, I’ve had a Pro Bowl year here, I’ve had success and there’s been a lot of long attempts that we’ve made, so the numbers are going to have to be right for both of us. But when it comes down to it, I hope I can stay with the Vikings.”

Walsh embracing challenge of longer extra points

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh knew that change was inevitable this time a year ago when the NFL announced that it would experiment with the placement of the ball for extra points after touchdowns. That change came yesterday, when league owners voted to move extra points back 13 yards to the 15-yard line.

"I don’t think they would have put it in last preseason unless they were serious about changing it," Walsh said last night in a phone interview. "You could see the writing on the wall. But I’m glad they didn’t eliminate it."

Some kickers aren’t thrilled that they will now have to try to nail their point after touchdowns (PATs) from 33 yards out. But Walsh, who penned this piece on the looming change last offseason, is embracing the challenge.

"Absolutely," Walsh said. "You’ve got to be confident in what you do. If somebody was telling you, 'Hey, we’re going to make your job just a little bit more important,' why wouldn’t you take it? It’s a new challenge."

In the first two weeks of the 2014 preseason, when the NFL tried out the proposed PAT rule, Walsh made all four of his extra points from 33 yards.

In the regular season, Walsh made eight of 10 attempts from 30-39 yards.

Because extra points will be, as he put it, “no longer straight automatic,” Walsh said he will have to prepare a little bit more for them.

Previously, Walsh might have kicked one or two standard 20-yard extra points throughout one week of practice. Now he believes he will need to kick at least a couple of 33-yarders in every one of his live kicking sessions.

"You just have to practice the situation a little more," he said. "You’ll have to really focus and pay attention to all the small details to be successful."

Over the past 24 hours, there has been a lot of talk amongst media, fans and number-crunchers about how the new rule could affect game strategy. The statheads say that the smarter statistical option is now going for two points from two yards out, and some folks wonder if teams will consider adding “two-point specialist” quarterbacks who are goal-line running threats.

So, Blair Walsh, here is a hypothetical for you: The Vikings score a late touchdown to pull within one point of the Packers. What’s the call? Walsh out for the 33-yard PAT? Or are you going for two with Adrian Peterson?

"I think the way you have to look at it is, what would you have done last year? You would kick the extra point," said Walsh, who was an All-Pro in 2012. "I think that adding 13 yards to the kick shouldn’t really make you not trust your kicker at that point. So I think you have to kick it and play for overtime. You don’t want to lose it on a two-point conversion."

Spoken like a true kicker — but one who isn’t sweating an extra 13 yards.

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