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Vikings punter Kluwe tries to snap slump

Vikings punter Kluwe tries to snap slump

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Chris Kluwe still has his day job. He just hasn't been doing it as well as he and the Vikings would like.

Minnesota's outspoken punter has a gross average of 43.8 yards per attempt this season. That ranks only 24th in the NFL among those with enough tries to qualify for the leaders, putting him on the edge of the bottom quarter of a hyper-competitive league where the difference between losing and winning is often measured in inches.

The eighth-year veteran even got booed by the home crowd in his last game, when a 20-yard shank went out of bounds following a three-and-out by the offense to give Tampa Bay the ball at its 42 in the first quarter and set up a field goal.

Because of the increasing profile Kluwe has kept off the field with his activism on behalf of gay marriage rights, suggestions have come from frustrated or skeptical fans that he's not focused enough on his punting. Kluwe did his best this week to take that theory like it was a ball snapped to him on fourth-and-long and boot it down the field inside the 5-yard line.

``I'd be more worried about someone who spent 24 hours a day thinking about solely one subject. It's not a sign of great mental health,'' Kluwe said. ``When I'm here at the facility, football is the only thing I'm focusing on. That's what I'm here for. And when I'm away from the football facility, I have a life. I do other things.''

Minnesota has a constitutional amendment on this year's ballot that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Kluwe, a straight, married father, has become one of the loudest voices of the ``vote no'' campaign. He has written countless essays posted on all kinds of websites and conducted television interviews with seemingly every network in the nation about his stance.

Kluwe already had a higher profile than most punters because of his quirky nature, past criticism on Twitter toward authorities like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and his role as the bassist in a local alternative rock band called Tripping Icarus. Given the wide coverage the marriage amendment debate has received around the state, the Vikings' punter has gotten a lot of attention for speaking up.

The team brought in a handful of free-agent punters this week for tryouts, part of the normal process every team goes through to have updated scouting reports on prospects available in case they're needed. Their presence at Winter Park didn't necessarily signify growing concern about Kluwe's performance, but a reminder that players in this league can be cut at any time.

``It's part of the job. If the team doesn't think you are performing up to standard then they'll bring someone else in and do what they need to do,'' Kluwe said. ``I'm going to approach it the same way: go out and try to have the best game I can. Hopefully I do.''

The Vikings play at Seattle on Sunday. There's no indication they're actually considering making a punting change.

``Chris is a pro. He'll figure this out,'' coach Leslie Frazier said.

Gross average isn't always the best way to gauge punters, since teams need them to pin kicks near the goal line sometimes rather than send them as far as possible. Kluwe, though, has only ranked below 15th in the NFL in gross average once in his previous seven years. He was 25th with a 42.3-yard average in 2006.

Last season, he was 13th at 45.7. In 2008, when coach Brad Childress angrily threatened to cut him after he didn't kick two punts out of bounds that Reggie Bush returned for touchdowns in a game in New Orleans, Kluwe was fourth in the league at 47.6.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has noticed Kluwe rushing his kicks recently and failing to drop the ball consistently in the right place at the right rate. Those slight mechanical adjustments can have a big impact.

``He's got to come out of his funk a little bit. He hurt us the other night. He knows it,'' Priefer said, adding: ``I know he'll come back from that. He's going to have a great week this week.''

Priefer, like Frazier, expressed no concern about Kluwe's commitment to his primary occupation.

``That's a good question, but the only thing I've focused on this week is how we're going to beat Seattle,'' Priefer said. ``The other stuff? I don't care.''

NOTES: WR Percy Harvin missed practice Thursday because of what Frazier called a personal matter. The coach said Harvin should be back Friday and able to play Sunday. ... TE John Carlson still hasn't been cleared to practice after his concussion. ... RB Adrian Peterson was disappointed his beloved Oklahoma lost last week to Notre Dame, which counts no less than five former players on the Vikings roster. ``Rough week for me and my pockets,'' Peterson said.

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

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Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two guys have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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Don't expect a big role for Ramon Sessions with Wizards after signing as free agent

Don't expect a big role for Ramon Sessions with Wizards after signing as free agent

When Ramon Sessions was last with the Wizards, he was the primary backup point guard behind starter John Wall. Now back with the team on a 10-day contract, he is expected to play a much more muted role.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks spoke of Sessions as the fourth-string point guard, not only behind Wall who remains out to recover from left knee surgery, but also behind Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier. The presence of Sessions should not affect Satoransky's minutes as the replacement starter and it doesn't sound like Frazier is in jeopardy of moving down the depth chart, either.

"I don't know how many minutes or opportunities he will get, but with the way he holds himself I feel comfortable if we need him in a pinch," Brooks said. "We have some coverage now if one of our guards goes down or gets in foul trouble."

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Brooks mentioned Sessions' ability to play some at shooting guard if needed. He also praised Sessions' penchant for getting to the free throw line. Sessions has averaged 3.9 free throw attempts in just 23.5 minutes per game. That's highest among active players who have averaged 24 minutes or less in their career.

Sessions played well for the Wizards down the stretch of the 2014-15 season and in the 2015-16 campaign. As a member of the Wizards, he averaged 9.2 points and 3.0 assists per game.

RELATED: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RAMON SESSIONS

He has played for eight different teams, but has always felt a connection to Washington.

"It just always felt like a place I could end up back one day," he said. "People always ask me, being on so many teams, 'what's the home team to you?' I always come back to the Wizards. It was a place I was only here a year-and-a-half, but it feels like much longer than that with the run we had and the fans and the support I get when I come here."

Exactly how long Sessions will be here is unclear. He couldn't crack the Knicks' rotation earlier this season and has a lot to prove. Still, he's excited for the opportunity.

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