Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, kicker Ryan Longwell and long snapper Cullen Loeffler headed to the Metrodome on Thursday evening along with special teams coordinator Brian Murphy so they could get in some work on the kicking game.
The Vikings' indoor practice facility at Winter Park doesn't have a high enough roof to accommodate Kluwe's punting or Longwell's kickoffs. Working at the Metrodome each Thursday is nothing unique. They have been doing it all season since the weather forced the Vikings to start practicing inside.
But there was a twist to this most recent workout.
The Metrodome is going to be host to a monster truck show on Saturday night and thus there is dirt all over what ordinarily is the playing surface. There also are ramps that have been set up for those trucks. So workers put down a strip of turf on the dirt and the players put on their orange vests and went to work.
What's that you say? Why did they have to wear orange vests? Because OSHA regulations stated that they had to wear them while working in that environment. (Believe me I'd love to have a picture of what this looked like.) We talked to Kluwe about how much he could get out of punting in a facility that no longer resembled a football field.
“One of our maintenance guys went down and took a picture so we could have an idea kind of what we’re working with and it looks like they’ve got like these three ramps right at the 20 so I’ll probably aim like for the outside corner of each ramp on the side," Kluwe said. "So you still have something to aim at.”
Kluwe, of course, is getting set to return to the place where he had a nightmare-like game last season. The Saints' Reggie Bush returned two punts for touchdowns against the Vikings in a Monday night game in 2008 and Bush nearly took a third back but he tripped.
This led to coach Brad Childress becoming so upset by Kluwe's inability to keep the ball away from Bush that he brought in a few punters for workouts. Kluwe wasn't about to give away any secrets on Thursday but clearly Childress and Murphy don't want to put the ball in Bush's hands.
The Vikings have been working on their punt coverage at Winter Park this week by having speedy wide receiver Jaymar Johnson act as the scout team version of Bush. What the Vikings do in those instances, is put the ball in the JUGS gun and launch it to Johnson.
"Even though we’re covering [the punt] like maybe at 75 percent speed or so so guys don’t blow their legs out, Jaymar is going full speed," Kluwe said. "So that way guys have to make sure they are in the right lane, he’s going to be cutting all over the place. Basically he does a great job every week of simulating the type of returner we’re going to see and so we just kind of focus on that and hopefully we can cover it well enough so that we’re ready for the game.”