Nine days ago, more than a few eyebrows were raised when the Vikings used a sixth-round draft choice to grab Blair Walsh, a kicker from the University of Georgia.
Why in the world would the Vikings draft a kicker? That was the instinctive reaction anyway. After all, Ryan Longwell had spent the past six seasons in the Twin Cities, hitting 135 of 157 field goal attempts in the regular season during that span for the Vikings and going 2-for-2 in the 2009 playoffs.
The first thought was that Walsh was being brought in to heighten the placekicking competition. But it appears after three days of rookie mini-camp over the weekend, the Vikings are ready to hand Walsh the job outright. Today, the team released Longwell and sent him on his way.
All that head scratching from draft weekend? Depending on your perspective, it all makes sense now. Or maybe it makes even less sense.
Longwell, who has spent the past 15 seasons in the NFL with the Packers and Vikings, will now have to search for work elsewhere.
“Ryan has meant a great deal to the Vikings organization both on and off field over the past six seasons,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said in a statement. “We wish him all the best in the future and thank him for his service to the Minnesota Vikings.”
With that, the stage is fully cleared for Walsh to win placekicking duties for the team even after a senior season at Georgia during which he missed 14 of 35 field goal attempts. That included a stretch early last season during which he missed 10 of 23 field goals.
Walsh was an All-Southeastern Conference standout earlier in his college career, earning second-team honors as a sophomore in 2009 and a first-team nod in 2010.
On Friday, at the end of his first practice as a Viking at mini-camp, Walsh said he was looking forward to working with and competing against Longwell. Now he won't get to or have to.
"All I can do is give my best effort and show what I can do on the field and what my value is to this team," Walsh said Friday. "Like I say, you just have to do what you know how to do, do what you've been doing for the last six or seven years or however long I've been playing now. I'm confident in my abilities. We'll see how it all shakes out."