Friday, October 9, 2015

mike priefer

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Cullen Loeffler has played 171 snaps at long snapper for the Vikings, the most in franchise history and a testament to his staying power in Minnesota. Today, the organization says goodbye to their most-tenured player, releasing Loeffler after 12 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

“These types of decisions are the hardest part of our jobs,” said GM Rick Spielman in a statement released on the team’s official website. “Cullen was outstanding in the community and on the field for the Vikings. He handled his business with class and his impact in the locker room and on the franchise were second to none. We wish him the best in the future.”

Loeffler, who joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2004, signed a one-year, $1.05 million contract extension with an $80,000 signing bonus this offseason. The slight pay cut from his 2014 salary indicated the front office was prepared to release Loeffler if expectations weren’t met or bring in competition to raise his level of play.

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Cordarrelle Patterson stands waiting in the back of the end zone, the heels of his feet hugging the white paint behind him. It’s Week 8 of the 2013 season, and the rookie is already the league’s most dangerous kick returner, averaging 36.5 yards-per-return to start his career.

Opposing teams have quickly learned to kick the ball away from Patterson, but the Packers’ Tim Masthay boots the ball deep, a mistake that will forever live in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Leaning back, Patterson fields the kick and idles over the goal line, reading his blocking and charting a path through the scrum ahead.

He quickly finds a crease and explodes, following Toby Gerhart up the alley with one hard cut. The burst that made Patterson so exciting his rookie year allows him to run upfield untouched, save for a diving attempt from Packers corner Micah Hyde. With one more plant step and juke, Patterson makes three Packers miss before hitting his fourth gear en route to the end zone.

Image courtesy of Bleacher Report
Image courtesy of Bleacher Report

The play above stands as the longest kick return in NFL history, a 109-yard example of exceptional athleticism and near-perfect blocking. It highlights everything that made Patterson such a threat in the return game his rookie year — speed, vision, a commitment to play design, and aggressiveness.

So what happened? Since making the Packers coverage team look silly, Patterson hasn’t sniffed the end zone on special teams. His yards-per-return have dipped dramatically — from 32.40 in 2013 to 25.62 in 2014 — and he appears more timid, even conservative, with the ball in his hands. Sure, Patterson is responsible for some of regression, but Mike Priefer’s unit must also improve if the Vikings are to return to form in 2015.

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When the Vikings re-signed 34 year old long snapper Cullen Loeffler to a one year deal this offseason, and then signed free agent long snapper Kevin McDermott to a two year contract, it was fairly easy to draw some conclusions implying that the Vikings are searching for Loeffler’s replacement.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer essentially confirmed that Loeffler will have to win a competition if he wants to spend a 12th consecutive season on the Vikings roster. Loeffler and McDermott will essentially face off in one of the least sexy, but somewhat important, training camp battles of 2015.

“I think he wore down a little bit as the season wore on last year and I think he came back strong,” Priefer said of Loeffler to the Star-Tribune. “You know, Cullen is a great guy and he’s very competitive and he’s very passionate about what he does and he’s got a great work ethic.”

Priefer also spoke highly of McDermott, however, and revealed a plan to split snaps equally between his two long snapper options well into the preseason action.

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Which Special Teams Player will Stand Out for the Vikings in 2015?

Darren: Adam Thielen 
Thielen might be the common answer here, but as long as he keeps his place on the roster in 2015, he should make the biggest impact on special teams. He seems to be in on more special teams tackles than any other Viking and also made an impact with a blocked punt and a touchdown against Carolina last season. Minnesota could even opt to help out its secondary by dumping Marcus Sherels, which would slide Thielen into the job of punt returner, where he has flashed some skills in preseason.

[Punter to be Named Later]
Jeff Locke has to step it up in year three or he’s gone. Yes, he’ll probably benefit greatly from kicking indoors in 2016, but the Vikings can’t wait that long. He needs to start being an asset instead of a liability in the field position game this season, or he’ll be replaced. There will be improvement at the punter position in 2015. Whether that’s because Locke’s improved (having a familiar long snapper might help if McDermott beats out Loeffler) or because he’s been replaced is yet to be determined.

[NOTE FROM ARIF: With details of the settlement now made public, we can provide more information]

UPDATE: With the terms released, we now have more to speculate with. Per reports from Chris Tomasson at the Pioneer Press, we know the following—

  • The Vikings will donate to five different LGBT groups over the next five years, several local. Kluwe mentioned on twitter that it was a “substantial amount.” To reporter Chris Tommason of the Pioneer Press, Halunen said, ““Everybody knows the numbers we have been talking about over the past seven months. It’s substantial.”
    • One of those organizations is the Matthew Shepard Foundation, dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, murdered in Laramie, Wyoming because of his sexual orientation. It attempts to “Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion, & Acceptance” with outreach and advocacy work.
    • Some of these organizations are Minnesota organizations.
  • The Vikings will implement enhanced training within the entire organization, and renew their committed to a zero tolerance policy on homophobia.
  • The Vikings will be working to create a symposium to bring together sports and LBGTQ leaders in order to address this issue in sports.
  • Chris Kluwe is free to talk about his experience with the Vikings, but not the allegations. He says he will write about his experiences in his memoirs.
  • The full 150-page executive summary of the investigation will not be released.

Further, Chris Kluwe released this statement via twitter in regards to the report’s release, “Our worry there was that there were systemic problems being covered up, but there weren’t. Then it became, do I want this to be about me? (And prove the haters right) Or do we try to do a lot of good for a lot of other people. We’ve chosen to help those who need it, in a way that hopefully will set an example moving forward for others to follow.”

The Vikings released the following statement:

“We appreciate Chris Kluwe’s contributions to the Minnesota Vikings as a player and a member of this organization during his eight seasons in which he established many team records as our punter, and we wish him and his family the best in the future/ In regards to this matter, our focus remains on maintaining a culture of tolerance, inclusion and respect, and creating the best workplace environment for our players, coaches and staff.”

I speculated about the implications of not releasing the report as it pertains to both the Vikings and Chris Kluwe over at Vikings Journal, but suffice to say the Vikings probably dodged a bullet by being allowed to keep the report secret.

Also, Chris Kluwe and Clay Madel demanded an apology from Kevin Warren, Vikings executive vice president and chief administrative officer for two comments: that he was a punter in decline and for releasing “out of context” statements regarding the Sandusky jokes. I’m not entirely sure why he should apologize for the first, but if the context changes Chris Kluwe’s statements, then an apology makes sense—if context can.

Kevin Warren responded with a nonpology, similar to Kluwe’s non-apology apology in regards to the rape jokes:

If there’s anyone that we offended along the way while we were working on this, we were trying do the best and get to the facts and get to the truth. We just want to make sure we apologize to anyone that was really involved in this process because it was complicated and it was stressful for a lot of people involved. … But I think at the end of the day, the results that you have seen and you’ve heard, that this will build positive awareness for the LGBT community.

It’s just me personally, being the executive and an attorney internally (with the Vikings). That’s speaking for me, personally. … It’s really for the whole process. This has been a complicated situation, and we tried to handle it with integrity and professionalism and honesty. … And if anybody was kind of offended along the way, within our organization or externally, it was not done without any intent or ill will whatever. We were just trying to conduct a professional investigation.

Original story below:

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