The last time anyone other than Chris Kluwe punted a ball for the Vikings was the 13th game of the 2005 season. Kluwe, a rookie at the time, had a sprained ankle, so the Vikings signed Darren Bennett, their punter in 2004, to punt against the Rams. Bennett punted eight times for a 37.5-yard average, Kluwe returned and has gone on to become the best punter the team has ever had.
The Vikings are preparing themselves for the possibility that Kluwe won't be able to punt on Sunday against the Cardinals. He hurt his hamstring on the first punt against the Chiefs on Sunday. Although he went on to average 53.3 yards on four punts in the game, Kluwe was unable to practice on Wednesday. The Vikings worked out former Lions punter Nick Harris and are preparing for the possibility of having to sign a short-term replacement, a person with knowledge of the situation said last night.
This is a reminder of how important Kluwe and the punt coverage unit is in the grand scheme of how the Vikings hope to win games. The Vikings are a ball-control team that needs to play sound defense and win the battle of field position. Kluwe is a big part of the latter, obviously.
Kluwe is 10th in the league in punting average this season (46.7), but the unit as a whole is 24th in net punting with a 37.1 average.