Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer talked this week as if free-agent kicker Ryan Longwell would be part of the team in 2011.
Longwell is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and has been part of the Vikings since 2006, when the team signed him away from the Green Bay Packers in free agency. Since then, Longwell has been through two different special-teams coordinators, Paul Ferraro and Brian Murphy, under former head coach Brad Childress.
Ferraro went the St. Louis Rams as their linebackers coach in 2009, and new head coach Leslie Frazier elected to hire Priefer over retaining Murphy in January. That leaves Longwell, who will turn 37 this year, looking to extend his career under another new coordinator.
While Longwell has been as automatic as they come with field goals since arriving in Minnesota, his leg strength on kickoffs has been an issue. Last year, he had only three touchbacks, ranking 30th in the league. NFL leader Billy Cundiff of Baltimore had 40, but a new rule adopted last month will move the starting point for kickoffs up to the 35-yard line, a 5-yard move forward that could help extend Longwell's career.
"I think so," Priefer said when asked about the new kickoff position as it relates to Longwell. "The great thing about Ryan is he's a wily veteran. He's got a lot of what I call tricks in his bag. He's going to have opportunities to place kickoffs where he wants them – higher, shorter, deeper, not as high with the hang time. So we'll be able to be creative, do some things on kickoffs. Hopefully every now and then we get a few touchbacks. I think it will be good for Ryan."
That sounds like Longwell will part of the team in 2011, but when a new labor deal or ruling is reached and free agency begins, he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
The lack of an extension at this point can't surprise Longwell too much. He said at the end of the 2010 season he figured the team would wait until a new collective bargaining agreement was reached, and the labor impasse is still ongoing.
But also said he felt like his leg was still lively and thought he could play four or five more seasons.
"I think I can play 18 years, but … I've been so blessed to play for 14 you almost feel greedy wanting anymore," he said in December. "You just kind of take it one week at a time. I feel like my leg is still live. I feel like I'm still hitting the ball as good as I ever have. I certainly feel like I have a lot of years left. We'll just kind of see if they are here or elsewhere."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Priefer talking like Longwell will return
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