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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Vernon Davis urges Redskins fans to have patience with Bruce Allen

Vernon Davis urges Redskins fans to have patience with Bruce Allen

Tight end Vernon Davis has seen the Washington Redskins go through many ups and downs since becoming a part of the organization in 2016, but the 2018 season brought a new set of challenges.

Two injured quarterbacks headlined the Redskins' 7-9 season and fans were once again calling for team president Bruce Allen's job.

In a rare media availability during Tuesday's Senior Bowl practice, Allen noted how "close" he felt the Redskins were to reaching the postseason but his continued lack of transparency is something that does not sit well with Redskins fans.

Davis, speaking Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, is standing by the team's president.

"I strongly believe, like I said before, we have the pieces to win games."

"Bruce and Dan [Snyder], those guys are constantly sitting in their office trying to find ways to win. It's not like they're not doing a great job with it. I believe in them. I believe that they're going to make the right decision to do the best they can do to help us win football games around here because that's what they're there for. Bruce is there to make sure that we're a championship team. Make sure that we're winning. Making sure that we have all the pieces when it comes to different positions on the football field. So, they're doing just that.

Allen has continued to praise the Redskins fans for their passion throughout the offseason. But if you know the Redskins, don't expect many changes to take place. 

And if it's hard for you to hang on to the little insight Allen provides Redskins fans with in regards to the future of the organization, Davis urges fans to keep holding on. 

"I wouldn't quite count him out. I just say have patience and continue to support the Washington Redskins." 


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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive


Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

News that the “grit ‘n grind” era is apparently ending in Memphis effectively tips off the NBA trade deadline rumors.

No shock if the John Wall and Dwight Howard-less Washington Wizards receive a mention or two for deals involving Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. Mention and final destination are different worlds, of course.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Grizzlies are finally open to hearing trade offers for their two franchise stalwarts. They never reached the level of other famed big man/guard tandems, but Gasol and Conley were at the center of a seven-year run of playoff appearances peaking with the 2013 Western Conference finals.

With age and injuries striking the duo, Memphis slipped in recent years. The postseason streak ended last season. After a hot start to the 2018-19 campaign including an early-season win over the Wizards, the Grizzlies have lost 12 of 13, falling to 19-28 overall. While that record would not automatically end playoff hopes in the Eastern Conference, it slots Memphis 14th out of 15 teams in the West.

As NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman noted, finding a trade partner will not come easy for the Grizzlies.

Gasol, 33, has a player option next season for $25.6 million. That’s a huge number for a center in this perimeter-oriented era on top of the $24.1 million the three-time All-Star is earning this campaign. Gasol’s highly skilled game is showing signs of decline, though his basic statistical numbers (15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 blocks) remain helpful.

Conley, one of the NBA’s most underrated talents of his generation, offers lead guard, leadership skills – and a financial challenge. From Feldman:

Mike Conley will have a lot of interested parties, he is an All-Star level player (he’d make it in the East easy, but in the West probably falls short again), but his contract is bigger than Gasol’s. Conley makes $30.5 million this season and has $67 million the two seasons after that (the second is an early termination option, but Conley isn’t opting out of that money, so consider that $67 million fully guaranteed).

As Memphis’ season turned south, Washington surged, winning seven of its last 10 games to move into a ninth-place tie with Detroit. Still two games back of the eighth and final playoff berth, the Wizards could use general depth if not actual star power with Wall sidelined for the season. Howard (back surgery) and forward Markieff Morris (neck) face uncertain recovery timelines.

No disrespect to the Wall and Howard replacements, Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant, but Gasol and Conley would upgrade Washington at those positions. The cost, however, keeps such grandiose thoughts on the shelf. 

During the team’s recent London trip, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis emphatically stated the team would not consider throwing in the towel despite injuries and a losing record. That is not the same as stating the luxury-tax paying team would take on significant salary or trade coveted assets for help.

Washington’s 2019 first-round selection takes on additional importance because the team already exceeds next season’s salary cap with only five players under contract.

Now, if some creative mind conjures a trade that removes the final year of Ian Mahinmi’s four-year, $64 million contract from the books without sending Washington dramatically further into the tax or deals with Wall's trade kicker, hmmm.

If the Wizards decide the overall roster needs a dramatic shake-up, perhaps a deal centered on Wall and Conley gets interesting (Thanks, NBA trade machine, though maybe include draft picks already).

Wall’s run of recent surgeries combined with his four-year, $170 supermax contract kicking in next season and that substantial kicker may end all discussion. However, he is three years younger than Conley. Memphis, set to build around 19-year-old Jaren Jackson Jr., could find that age factor appealing or use Wall/Conley to fascilitate a larger trade.

Other teams will offer more future-friendly deals for Gasol and Conley. The Wizards appear set in their belief the current roster, even with the injuries, can reach the playoffs. Therefore, it's wise setting aside the notion of a major move from Washington involving the Grizzlies’ stars or any other high profile/big salary players. Bookmark the trade machine page regardless.