Aaaaand …. here we go! In many ways, the Vikings’ 2013 season officially gets underway Friday – first training camp walkthrough at 10:30 a.m., first practice at 2:45 in Mankato. And yes we know a lot can and will happen between now and Sept. 8, the day the Vikings open the regular season at Detroit. But taking the 90 players currently on the roster, we’re delivering our in-depth position-by-position report as a primer for the opening of camp.
Currently on roster: 3
Likely to make opening day roster: 3
Certain to make the team: Blair Walsh, Jeff Locke, Cullen Loeffler
Biggest offseason developments: The Vikings used a fifth-round pick in April on Locke, the highest-rated punter on their board. A little more than a week later, following rookie mini-camp, the organization released eight-year veteran Chris Kluwe.
What we’ll be watching: It’s training camp. So to say all eyes will be on a punter would either be a gross overstatement or a sign of temporary insanity. But we would like to at least keep an eye on Locke, a left-footer whom special teams coordinator Mike Priefer believes has plenty of leg strength and an even more impressive drive to learn and get better.
Locke’s arrival as Walsh’s new holder will also be worth keeping track of as the field goal operation tries to establish a rhythm as early as possible.
In the return game, Priefer’s search for a punt returner will be worth monitoring. Marcus Sherels remains the No. 1 option, so reliable with his ball security that Priefer won’t easily let him go. But the Vikings will certainly eye other options there, perhaps giving Jarius Wright and Josh Robinson the most extensive looks.
Now Kluwe has been left to seek work elsewhere, firmly believing he has “at least four or five good seasons left” and already eyeing the league’s punter matrix wondering whether there might be possible openings in places like Dallas, Cleveland, Oakland and Carolina.
“The only thing I can do is go out and punt as well as I know how and trust the body of work that I’ve compiled over the years. I think it’s been fairly good.”
Wherever Kluwe lands, he wants his next team to know he’ll be dedicated to his job but that he won’t stifle his opinions on topics he feels strongly about.
“I’m not going to lie to another team and tell them, ‘No, I’m never going to say anything,’” Kluwe said. “But what I can tell them is that everything I’ve Tweeted, everything I’ve ever put out there have been things I’ve been very careful to keep them away from the organization.
“I’ve always spoken for myself. I’ve never said anything denigrating about coaches or players or management of whatever. It’s simply speaking up on things I feel strongly about.”
Kluwe could not say for sure whether voicing his opinions so frequently had become a catalyst for his release. But he’s hopeful that was not the case and that it won’t deter other organizations from giving him an opportunity.
“That would be a pretty disappointing to see in the NFL,” he said. “As athletes, we have an opportunity to be role models. And I think we have a platform to do a lot of good in the world by taking advantage of the opportunity to speak out on important societal issues. I’d hate to think that would be considered a major distraction on equal footing with all the arrests that go on around the league.”
– May 7