In a season where the Vikings have made so many dramatic improvements in taking care of the little things, their effort on kick coverage has been both terrific and under-appreciated. Sure, Blair Walsh has produced touchbacks on 47 of his 73 kickoffs this season. At the same time, the Vikings haven’t allowed a kickoff to be returned past the 25 yard line since Week 5, leaving special teams coordinator thrilled with his players’ buy-in and commending the front office for supplying so many high-character, hard-working young players.
“Special teams in some teams is kind of an insult,” Priefer said, “where here we’ve got guys itching to play special teams. And I think that’s the mentality and the culture we’ve established here that’s really made a difference.”
Last week in St. Louis, the Vikings made kickoff stops at the Rams 12 and 14. A week earlier, they stopped the Bears at their own 17, 11, 14 and 15.
So is Priefer tempted to have Walsh take a little off his kickoffs to bait returners to come out with them?
“I’m always tempted to do that, but that’s kind of my ego kicking in,” Priefer said. “I think what’s best for the team a lot of times is a touch back.”
As for when Priefer noticed the serious investment in special teams?
"We had a few guys last year and then I think even the guys that were here last year, this year have said, ‘You know what, this is kind of fun. We have a kicker who’s going to give us a chance on kick coverage, we have a punter who’s going to give us a chance on punt coverage, we’ve got returners that make plays and can make people miss even if I don’t get a perfect block.’ So probably at the end of spring going into training camp I was pretty excited about the direction we were going."