Saturday, November 28, 2015

chris kluwe

Yesterday, we mentioned that the Vikings signed three of their later-round rookies already, and on Wednesday the Vikings got the rest of their rookies not drafted in the first to do the same.

The Vikings have now announced that fifth round punter Jeff Locke, sixth round lineman Jeff Baca, and seventh round lineman Travis Bond are all officially members of the team.  This now leaves only the team’s three first round selections to sign.

For those still convinced the Vikings couldn’t have possibly replaced Chris Kluwe, with Locke, for any reason other than Kluwe’s off-field efforts, Locke’s new contract will pay him only about $2.34 million over four years.  Kluwe was set to make $1.4 million in 2013 alone.

Last offseason, the Vikings drafted kicker Blair Walsh which generated collective groans from Vikings fans that felt it was a waste.  About eight days later, after Walsh showed up in good health to the rookie minicamp, the Vikings released long-time kicker Ryan Longwell.  Walsh then went on to have one of the greatest seasons, as a rookie, of any kicker in franchise history.

Fast-forward to this offseason, after the Vikings selected punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round of the Draft, and even the biggest Chris Kluwe supporters has accepted what was going to happen following this year’s rookie minicamp.

The Vikings expectedly released Kluwe.

“So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish!” Kluwe proclaimed on Twitter.  The “fish” reference comes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy book series, which serves as just one more reminder of the culture and humor Kluwe brought to his fans over the years.

“Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything,” his tweets continued. “And thank you everyone for your support. Remember, one label does not define who you are as a person :)”

Kluwe met with Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier for about five minutes on Monday, where he was informed of his release, and he was not provided any specifics on the reasoning.  Of course, plenty of attention will be drawn to the fact that the Vikings released the most vocal gay rights advocate in professional sports only days after the NBA had a player announce his sexuality on the national stage and thanking Kluwe by name.

The truth is, however, that Kluwe is on the wrong side of 30 and was owed a sizeable salary for his position.  There is nothing about how Rick Spielman has gone about rebuilding this roster that should suggest Kluwe’s activism had anything to do with his release.  Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Cullen Loeffler are currently the only members of the team over the age of 30.  Prominent veterans like Longwell, Antoine Winfield, and Steve Hutchinson have been shown the door in similar fashion under the new management structure.

“Chris has meant a great deal to the Vikings both on and off the field in his eight seasons here,” said Rick Spielman in a statement. He contributed to many victories and we wish Chris and his family the best and thank him for his contributions to the Vikings organization. Out of respect to Chris, we decided to release him now and allow time for him to sign with another team.”

The outspoken punter has plenty of off-field endeavours that include a rock band, a pseudo-professional video game habit, and advocacy efforts for numerous causes.  The one that has drawn the most attention has been his support of equal rights for gay people, but it would be unfair to the Vikings to construe anything they have ever said as a condemnation of his efforts.

Actually, last season’s comments from Mike Priefer are the only thing I can find in terms of a coach being frustrated with Kluwe, and that came after Kluwe had been fined for using his uniform to protest Ray Guy’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame.

“Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you,” Priefer said on December 13th. “Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there’s other ways of going about it, in my opinion.”

“To me it’s getting old. He’s got to focus on punting and holding,” Priefer continued.

He was then asked if he had shared these sentiments with Kluwe himself.

“Nah,” said Priefer. “He don’t listen.”

Kluwe then embarked on a Twitter campaign to, essentially, chastise Priefer’s comments over the course of about five months.  He was constantly taking to Twitter to sarcastically let fans know just how focused he was on being focused about focusing.  He is a witty guy, and his point was mostly well-received by his followers, but acting out at an employer publically is typically not going to be a smart move no matter who you are.

I most of the important categories, Kluwe can easily be considered the best punter in franchise history, but the Vikings have good reason for moving on.  A run-first team that is about to play two seasons outdoors, where Kluwe has had his struggles, has to consider field position as one of their highest priorities on every single game day.  Locke represents an upgrade, a cheaper and younger upgrade, and Kluwe’s release is another step in a rebuilding process that has produced plenty of heartbreaking moments for many Vikings fans.


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It is widely assumed, and for really good reason, that Vikings punter Chris Kluwe will be released following the fifth round investment the Vikings made in UCLA rookie punter Jeff Locke.

Kluwe was not the first punter shown the door, however, as it was T.J. Conley that was cut before ever even practicing once with the team.  Despite his very brief stay in Minnesota, Conley went out of his way to say some nice things on his way out.

The Vikings waited about eight days after drafting Blair Walsh last year before releasing veteran kicker Ryan Longwell. The move coincided with Walsh showing up to the rookie minicamp healthy, able, and willing.

Rookie minicamp begins at the end of this week and, at that point, the Kluwe watch will be in full force.

In a Draft that seemed about as predictable as the Powerball numbers from this week’s drawing, there was little I felt comfortable declaring as a true prediction.  At the very least, most of my Draft-related predictions came with a transparent lack of conviction that should have been an obvious signal to readers that I was feeling unsure on about every level about how the event would play out.

I made sure to let you know that I felt absolutely no confidence in the final version of my mock draft.  It was for good reason, too.  I ended up matching only one prospect to the correct NFL team in the whole damn thing.  If the Colts hadn’t selected defensive end Bjoern Werner, I would have gotten a big old goose egg on the mock draft front.

Even though I had been predicting for a long time that the Vikings would select linebacker Manti Te’o if he was available, I went out of my way to chastise 1500 ESPN writer Patrick Reusse for making an absurd claim prior to the Draft.

“It is a 100 percent certainty that the Vikings will wind up with Te’o,” wrote Reusse in a column that has been long forgotten by most readers and for which he will never be held accountable for, not that he should be.

Outside of betting Brett ten thousand dollars, at one point, that Dee Milliner would not go to the Jaguars #2 overall (waiting for that check, Brett) I just wasn’t feeling real sure about anything regarding the Draft.  I was always astonished, given the nature of this year’s class, how many people were willing to use absolutes in discussing what was going to happen on Draft Weekend.

There was one thing, however, that should have surprised absolutely nobody.  I had been predicting it with conviction all offseason long and took every opportunity possible to bring it up in talking with Vikings fans.  I was even spouting off about it during all three days of our live Draft Chat this weekend.

I was 100% positively, unequivocally certain the Vikings would replace punter Chris Kluwe in this Draft.

If the Vikings draft Manti Te’o tonight it might not be the only Draft-related move that we’ve been calling for months now.

When profiling punter Ryan Allen, and then later Brad Wing, I outlined all of the various reasons the Vikings might send special teams coordinator Mike Priefer on the road to find a new punter this offseason.  Kluwe’s $1.4 million salary chews up significant space (for a punter) in the last year of his current deal.  He’s getting older and seems to be, at least slightly, regressing.  There is some incredible talent and depth at the punter position available this year.  Priefer also expressed last season that Kluwe’s off-field endeavours have been exhausting.

With the success Priefer had last year in sneaking in some visits with kicker Blair Walsh, who they then selected to replace Ryan Longwell, I felt that the timing made sense to attempt the same type of transition at punter.

And the signs are pointing to that being a very real possibility.

1500 ESPN reports that Priefer conducted at least three private visits with prospective punters prior to tonight.  LSU’s Brad Wing, Arizona State’s Josh Hubner and UCLA’s Jeff Locke have all been worked out privately by Priefer, according to the report.  These visits are unlikely to be a result of anything less than strong interest, because the Vikings already have a “camp leg” in the form of T.J. Conley on the roster.

Kluwe’s job is safe for one more day, but it appears he could be looking for work as soon as Sunday.

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