MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ever since the Minnesota Vikings drafted UCLA’s punter Jeff Locke, there has been much speculation that Chris Kluwe’s days in Minnesota were numbered. Those speculations were correct.
Kluwe, 31, was cut by the Vikings Monday morning.
On Twitter, Kluwe addressed the move:
The Vikings confirmed the move Monday afternoon and included a statement by General Manager Rick Spielman.
“Chris has meant a great deal to the Vikings both on and off the field in his eight seasons here. 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,” Spielman said.
In 2005, Kluwe was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Seattle Seahawks. After being released for the final roster cutdown, he was picked up the next day by the Vikings.
Last season, Kluwe averaged 39.7 yards per punt, which was the best net average of his career, but ranked 17th league-wide. He didn’t always see eye-to-eye with straight-laced special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who said late last season that he was getting tired of Kluwe’s public stances after the punter was fined for covering a Hall of Fame patch on his jersey with a sign that read “Vote Ray Guy” to protest the lack of punters in the Hall.
Spielman has said that Kluwe’s outspoken nature would have nothing to do with the decision to keep him or cut him.
“I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion,” Spielman said. “That’s his right. That’s his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy and come in and compete.”
Locke, drafted in the fifth round, has a career average of 44.23 yards per punt, which is second in UCLA history, just ahead of Kluwe. He said he was told by Vikings coaches to get ready to come in and compete for the job.
“I just know I’m competing,” Locke said. “I talked to coach Priefer and he just said to come in and be ready to work. That’s what I’m going with.”
Now, Locke will go ahead without competition, just like kicker Blair Walsh last season when the Vikings cut longtime kicker Ryan Longwell.