Vikings Select Punter in 5th Round, Heat Now On Kluwe
The Minnesota Vikings curiously selected a punter in the 5th round of the NFL Draft - UCLA's Jeff Locke.
The move is interesting as it puts veteran punter Chris Kluwe in a competition for his job at the very least - or in danger of being cut at the very most.
"Please don't be mad at @jefflocke18. This is a great moment for him, and when I met him he was a standup guy. #werestillfightingthough," Kluwe tweeted shortly after Locke's pick was announced.
Later, 1500ESPN's Tom Pelissero spoke to Kluwe by phone, saying he intends to let the Vikings know he wants to compete for the job.
"If they don't know my character by now, then they're probably not ever going to figure it out," Kluwe told Pelissero. "I am here to compete. I'm here to do the best job that I possibly can. It doesn't matter if they draft someone or they bring someone in or whatever. I'm here to do my job to the best of my ability.
Kluwe also addressed the possibility the Vikings might be reacting to time he spent promoting various off-field causes last season - most vocally surrounding gay marriage rights.
"You've got guys in the league that have committed crimes. You've got guys that have been arrested. That hasn't seemed to slow anyone down. It'd really be a shame if me speaking out for equality was what got me cut. I think that doesn't say a lot of good things about the nature of football," he told Pelissero.
"If they're going to cut me, then that's what they're going to do. But I can't really influence that. That's a front-office decision."
Kluwe's 2012 statistics were below the numbers he had posted in prior seasons. He played most of the season with a lingering knee injury that required offseason surgery.
But, Kluwe claims the reduction in numbers was due to him following orders.
"I've been asked for multiple years now by special teams coaches to punt it shorter and higher so our guys can cover. That's what I did. That's what the team wanted," he said to 1500ESPN.
If he remains with the Vikings, Kluwe will receive $1.45M this season.
"All I can do is just go out and show who I am," Kluwe said to 1500ESPN. "Statistically, I've been the best punter in Vikings history. I can't really say anything other than that."
The Vikings also made a suirprise special teams pick in last year's draft, taking Blair Walsh despite Ryan Longwell's presence on the roster.
Longwell, who still ranks among the most accurate kickers in NFL history, was cut.
Walsh went on to be named a Pro Bowler after a stellar rookie campaign.