MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s not often an announcement for a roster move — much less one involving the long snapper — includes a statement of appreciation from the general manager. But it did Monday when the Vikings released Cullen Loeffler, who after 11 seasons was their longest tenured player.
And as he said goodbye, he, too, expressed appreciation for all his years in Minnesota.
“This has been just a tremendous experience,” he said, taking a break from packing his rental house in Eden Prairie to chat with WCCO. “Minnesotans in general have been just great.”
He signed with the Vikings undrafted out of Texas in 2004 and stuck ever since. It rarely happens anymore that a player gets to spend more than a decade with the same team. And for that, Loeffler is thankful.
“It never ceases to amaze me how many times I’ll go somewhere in Texas, and someone will be like, ‘You’re a Viking, right?’ And that’s just a neat feeling,” he said. “People take it for granted sometimes, and I certainly don’t.”
He knew this day would come eventually.
“It’s one of those things that, if you play long enough, this is going to happen,” he said.
He was just hoping it wouldn’t be here already.
“As (former Vikings coach Mike) Tice used to say, ‘It is what it is,’” Loeffler said with a smile. “It is what it is. Because the older you get, the more opportunity for that younger, cheaper guy to come in and replace you.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Kevin McDermott, a college teammate of punter Jeff Locke at UCLA, won the job because his snaps were simply faster and more accurate than Loeffler’s.
But as he leaves, Loeffler is extremely proud of what he did here — and how he did it.
The way McDermott found out he won the job? Loeffler called to congratulate him.
“Sometimes guys get to the league and they kind of forget sometimes who they are,” Loeffler said. “And my whole idea was, I just wanted to be the best player and the best person. … I feel like I’ve left that legacy.”
Loeffler had a frequent running gag he would play on the media at Winter Park. Many times after practice, he would sprint past reporters straight into the locker room, telling them, “Sorry guys, not today, just too busy” — as if any of them wanted to talk to the long snapper. But the thing is, as the years went on, more and more of them did, and not just because he became the longest tenured Viking. It was for his humor and personality.
“It started out as a good joke,” Loeffler said. “And then I just ran it into the ground.”
He said the highlight of his career with the Vikings was making it to the NFC championship game in 2009.
“Just feeling the electricity of what that playoff game meant,” he said, “and coming so close to going to the Super Bowl.”
The one silver lining for Loeffler is it happening now at least gives him a chance to catch on with another team.
“It was nice of them to give me this sort of time, before the season. Just kind of wait and see what my options are,” Loeffler said. “I’ll miss it. But, we’re here. And it’s time to start the next chapter, I guess.”
Anything he wanted to say to Vikings fans?
“Just thank you. Thank you for all the years. Thank you for all the support,” Loeffler said. “I just want to, at some point, come back and see this team with a Super Bowl ring and trophy.”