Whether it’s placekicks or punts, consistency is one thing rookie long snapper Austin Cutting has not possessed this training camp.
“He had one bad one here [Thursday] that I saw,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “But he’s been pretty solid. In the game, they were pretty good. And we had that long session whatever day it was and he was pretty good.”
Four days after veteran long snapper Kevin McDermott was released, special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf was asked to weigh in on that particular transaction. Asked if Cutting actually “won” the job or the Vikings just decided it was time to end the charade of an open competition with a rookie draft pick, Maalouf said in no uncertain terms that Cutting “definitely won the job.”
Thursday, Cutting had one particularly high snap on a placekick and one particularly low snap on a punt. Asked if the rookie was experiencing the understandable nervousness of becoming “the guy,” Zimmer smiled and referred to Cutting’s military background.
“He’s probably been yelled at a little bit in the military, Air Force, I’m guessing,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know if he’s flown jets or not, but I’m sure they prepared him for being shot at.”
In other words, the Vikings, at least at this point, are not concerned that the pressure is too big for Cutting to cope with.
Vedvik a kicker on Thursday
Maalouf said the Vikings “absolutely” are looking at Kaare Vedvik equally as their potential kicker or punter. Though he admits it’s unlikely that any team in today’s NFL would have one player handle both spots, he did say, “Anything’s possible.”
Thursday, Vedvik attempted his first placekicks in a team portion of practice. He went 5-for-6, missing from wide right from 40 yards into the wind and making from 33, 38, 40, 44 and 47. He went 2-for-3 with Chad Beebe as his holder and 3-for-3 with Matt Wile making his first appearance at holder since requiring stitches to close a cut on his left thumb during the preseason opener at New Orleans.
Incumbent Dan Bailey did not attempt a field goal Thursday.
Meanwhile, Wile handled all 11 punts in the team portion of practice. He mishit one punt miserably and was better on most of the others. He did struggle with direction and distance while punting closer than 50 yards from the goal line with a tailwind.
“We’re trying to evaluate all these guys,” Maalouf said. “Matt has been working on kickoffs as well as punting. His thumb is feeling better. Everybody is doing everything now.”
As for the challenges of evaluating Vedvik at two positions, Maalouf said balancing his workload ranks high.
“It’s hard for me to ask him to punt and kick field goals the same day,” Maalouf said. “So we have a plan in place.”
Coaches should ‘throw ’em’
Twin Cities reporters met with NFL officials Thursday and were shown the league-produced video explaining this year’s new rules and points of emphasis. Tops on the list of new rules obviously is expanding replay to include pass interference calls and no-calls.
During the first week of the preseason, no flags for pass interference were overruled while two no-calls were changed to pass interference.
NFL referee Jerome Boger told reporters that the league is hoping for as many preseason challenges as possible, especially on calls or no-calls involving Hail Marys which, given the chaotic nature of the play, could involve replay officials having to review multiple infractions that aren’t called.
“We’re encouraging the coaches to challenge,” said Gary Slaughter, regional supervisor of officials. “When we’re meeting with the teams, we’re saying, ‘Throw, guys.’ Don’t be bashful about it. Throw some challenges. Let’s try it so we can work the system and we can practice on it, and you can practice on it, and we can find some parameters. Throw ’em and let’s get something to look at in the preseason.”