2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Post-Kluwe Vikings confident in rookie punter

    2013-08-03 12:23

(Updates with rest of story.)
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings still have a UCLA-educated punter with an erudite degree, one whose background was in soccer before trying his leg at another sport.

This guy, though, doesn't play bass guitar in a grunge band. He only tweets a handful of times per week. He probably won't publicize his political views.

Jeff Locke has replaced Chris Kluwe, and the newcomer couldn't be much more different than his predecessor, despite their common alma mater. But if there's any position in professional football where pizazz is optional, it's the punter. Kluwe's outsized personality was the exception and, well, part of the reason Locke was drafted by the Vikings in the first place.

``He is a very mature young man,'' special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said, adding: ``I felt like he was a young man who could handle the adversity, handle some pressure and handle the fact that he is going to be our punter this season.''

Locke, who was taken in the fifth round, was also targeted for his ability to hold on extra points and field goals, an equally important task on any team. So far during training camp, Locke estimated he's split his work time evenly between holding and punting.

``We take holding very seriously,'' Locke said. ``It's not like just a side job.''

Kluwe had a lot of side jobs, from the rock group ``Tripping Icarus'' he helped form to the commentary he wrote and the speeches he made last fall in support of gay marriage rights. After Kluwe stuck a note to his jersey touting former punter Ray Guy's candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for one game last season, covering the Hall of Fame emblem on his jersey and drawing a fine from the NFL, Priefer said he'd grown tired of such distractions and urged Kluwe to focus on his on-field duties.

``I'm just a little more private with the way I handle things,'' Locke said. ``I'll get involved with the community when the season comes around, on Tuesdays on our off days and stuff like that, so hopefully I'll get to know the fans a little bit that way.''

So no moonlighting in the music world, either?

``No. No. You do not want to hear me play in a band. It would not be pretty,'' Locke said.

Kluwe majored in history and political science at UCLA. Locke studied economics. Whenever his football career is over, he plans to get his MBA and pursue a job in financial advising or wealth management. But he's got a lot of kicking to do before it's time to even think about that.

Punting wasn't on Locke's radar until his freshman year in high school at Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Ariz., when his friends from middle school persuaded him to join the team. The first game he'd ever watched was the first one he played in with the freshman team. His leg strength was enough to land him on the varsity soon after, and his life as a punter was off and kicking.

``They saw a guy, kind of raw, who had the power. I had to slowly find my technique over the offseason after that,'' said Locke, who credited participation in summer kicking camps that helped refine his technique.

Between his junior and senior year, he found himself with scholarship offers from Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Stanford, UCLA and Wisconsin. With numerous honors by his name, including Parade All-American, he became a Bruin.

He was first team All-Pac-12 last season after pinning 35 punts inside the 20-yard line and launching 22 kicks of 50-plus yards. His gross average for his career was 44.2 yards per punt.

The Vikings trusted Locke enough to not bother bringing in another punter for training camp competition. Priefer has helped Locke tweak some of his punting technique through extensive video review. He has even been practicing some Australian-style end-over-end boots for longer distances. Locke's biggest challenge this month, though, will be developing that fine-point rhythm with long snapper Cullen Loeffler and kicker Blair Walsh when he's holding.

``He's got to get used to holding the ball the way I like it, the way I like the ball tilted, how fast I get to the ball compared to somebody else,'' Walsh said. ``Even though it's a little bit of milliseconds off, it's still different. He's also got to get used to Cullen snapping and the way he throws the ball, so there's a bunch of moving parts you don't necessarily see right away.''

Last year, Walsh was in the same situation. Drafted in the sixth round, he prompted the team to release veteran Ryan Longwell. And he wound up in the Pro Bowl as a rookie. So there's precedent for immediate success, and the Vikings are hopeful they have another budding standout on their roster.

``The biggest thing about Jeff is even though he's young is that he's very mature,'' Priefer said. ``He's a pro.''

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Connor BarthAug 29 03:42p

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut PK Connor Barth Friday, Aug. 29.

Arrelious BennAug 29 03:32p

Philadelphia Eagles WR Arrelious Benn (back) will be placed on the Reserve/Injured list Friday, Aug. 29.

B. Green-EllisAug 29 03:12p

The Cincinnati Bengals cut RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis Friday, Aug. 29.

Mitchell Van DykAug 29 02:42p

The St. Louis Rams released OT Mitchell Van Dyk Friday, Aug. 29.

Johnny ManzielAug 29 02:22p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel showed a strong effort in the team's final preseason game against the Chicago Bears Thursday, Aug. 28, leading head coach Mike Pettine to acknowledge [ More ]

Charles SimsAug 29 02:02p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Charles Sims (ankle) is expected to be placed on the short-term Reserve/Injured list, which means he could return late in the season.

Santonio HolmesAug 29 01:52p

Chicago Bears WR Santonio Holmes displayed good burst and explosion on a 32-yard touchdown catch in the team's preseason finale Thursday, Aug. 28, as he tries to make the [ More ]

Larry EnglishAug 29 01:42p

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released LB Larry English Friday, Aug. 29.

Marc MarianiAug 29 01:22p

The Tennessee Titans released WR Marc Mariani Friday, Aug. 29.

Yawin SmallwoodAug 29 01:12p

The Atlanta Falcons released LB Yawin Smallwood Friday, Aug. 29.

Pat AngererAug 29 01:12p

The Atlanta Falcons released LB Pat Angerer Friday, Aug. 29.

S. JanikowskiAug 29 12:32p

Oakland Raiders PK Sebastian Janikowski (quadriceps) is expected to be ready to play in Week 1 against the New York Jets, according to head coach Dennis Allen.

Aaron DobsonAug 29 11:02a

New England Patriots WR Aaron Dobson had three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown in the final preseason game Thursday, Aug. 28.

Lonnie PryorAug 29 10:42a

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released LB Ka'lial Glaud, FB Lonnie Pryor and CB Keith Lewis.

Benny CunninghamAug 29 10:18a

St. Louis Rams RB Benny Cunningham has been the team's best running back during the preseason and could push RB Zac Stacy for playing time this season.

Cam NewtonAug 29 09:37a

Updating a previous report, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (ribs) said Wednesday, Aug. 27, that he will be ready for the regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsAug 29 08:52a

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs) suffered an injury to his ribs in the same area as his previous one, according to sources.

Martavis BryantAug 29 08:42a

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (shoulder) suffered a sprained right AC joint in his shoulder in the final preseason game Thursday, Aug. 28.

T.J. YatesAug 29 03:32a

Atlanta Falcons QB T.J. Yates threw for two touchdowns and 243 yards in his team's 24-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Dan OrlovskyAug 29 03:22a

Detroit Lions QB Kellen Moore was 17 of 28 for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a shutout of the Buffalo Bills Thursday, Aug. 28. It is not known [ More ]

Jeremy HillAug 28 11:52p

Cincinnati Bengals RB Jeremy Hill (elbow) returned to the team's preseason finale Thursday, Aug. 28, after being evaluated in the locker room at halftime. He finished the game with [ More ]

Nate PalmerAug 28 11:52p

Green Bay Packers OT Aaron Adams (knee) and LB Nate Palmer (knee) left the team's preseason game Thursday, Aug. 28.

Devonta FreemanAug 28 11:22p

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman had 12 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown and five catches for 45 yards during the team's preseason finale Thursday, Aug. 28.

Cecil Shorts IIIAug 28 10:12p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring) said he will be ready for the team's season opener.

Sammy WatkinsAug 28 07:32p

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs) left the team's final preseason game with an apparent injury. There was no indication if Watkins aggravated his ribs.

Kyle Van NoyAug 28 07:12p

Detroit Lions LB Kyle Van Noy (abdomen) underwent surgery Thursday, Aug. 28, to repair a core muscle injury. Van Noy's timetable for a return is unknown this early in the process.

Tim BenfordAug 28 07:02p

Baltimore Ravens WR Jace Davis, Dallas Cowboys WR Tim Benford, Kansas City Chiefs C Ben Gottschalk and Seattle Seahawks OG Greg Van Roten cleared waivers and became free agents Thursday, Aug. 28.

R. Griffin IIIAug 28 05:52p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III isn't playing consistently, according to ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski. Jaworski said Griffin must learn to throw from the pocket [ More ]

Geoff SchwartzAug 28 05:32p

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring), CB Prince Amukamara (groin), OT Charles Brown (shoulder), OT James Brewer (back), OG Geoff Schwartz (toe), OG [ More ]

Navorro BowmanAug 28 04:02p

San Francisco 49ers LB Michael Wilhoite appears to be the leading candidate to start at middle linebacker while LB NaVorro Bowman (knee) is out of the lineup.

J. CunninghamAug 28 03:52p

St. Louis Rams TEs Justice Cunningham and Alex Bayer likely are competing for one roster spot. Cunningham is considered a blocking tight end, while Bayer is a pass catcher. [ More ]

Michael SamAug 28 03:52p

St. Louis Rams DE Michael Sam is competing with DE Ethan Westbrooks for a spot on the final roster.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group