Notebook: Locke clutch with little prep

Rookie Jeff Locke hadn't kicked off since last year in college, but he and his coverage team were a bright spot in an ugly game for the Vikings. And Locke may have had his best day as a punter, too, ranking among the top in the league.

Vikings rookie Jeff Locke didn't get the opportunity to kick off much – that's what happens when a team only scores 10 points – but when he did, he took full advantage.

Locke, the Vikings' punter, had three kickoffs Sunday while filling in for Blair Walsh, who was limited because of a hamstring injury to his plant (left) leg. Despite getting very little practice at kicking off during the previous week, Locke nailed it.

"I actually wasn't nervous. I kicked off all of college so really it wasn't something super new to me," Locke said. "I just hadn't done it for a little while with a lot of reps. I actually wasn't extra nervous at all. I just went out and did my normal pregame routine and just hit it."

He was a hit, for sure.

He had one touchback and two of his kicks were returned – for a measly 15.5-yard average. While he hasn't kicked off enough to quality for the official NFL rankings, the 15.5-yard return average on his kickoffs is the lowest among players with at least three kickoffs.

"I talked to my kicking coach back home when I found out what (Walsh wasn't kicking off) and he kind of reminded me of the mental thoughts of kickoffs. I knew them already, but it was good to have the reminder from him and then I just went out and did it. The key was not overthinking it," Locke said.

"I was trying to get them a little deeper, but a lot of it was just not having a whole lot of reps. It was good to see the hang time was still there even though I wasn't hitting them as deep as I wanted to."

The Vikings' fifth-round draft choice sent 76.4 percent of his 89 kickoffs for touchbacks at UCLA, averaging 65.9 yards on those. He also handled field goal duties from long distances, hitting a 49-yarder and 51-yarder as a junior.

Locke said he only kicked off a few times last week after he found out on Friday or Saturday that Walsh wouldn't be handling those duties.

Locke probably also had his best day as a pro in the punting department. He punted four times for 199 yards (49.8 average), including one inside the 20-yard line and a long of 60 yards.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he thought it was Locke's best performance to date.

"I think every game I've just been getting a little more comfortable, a little less nerves," Locke said. "I just look more comfortable back there on film each game and it definitely just came together the last game."

Locke is 12th in the NFL with a 46.6-yard gross punting average and sixth with a 42.2 net average.

As for kickoffs, it's uncertain if Walsh will be able to return to those duties Monday night against the New York Giants, and the Vikings also worked out veteran kicker Shayne Graham, according to the Baltimore Sun. But after Locke's performance and Walsh having additional time to heal, don't expect a signing to be made at the position anytime soon.


Frazier indicated that the 79-yard touchdown given up to Carolina Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell wasn't solely the fault of cornerback Josh Robinson. On Sunday, Frazier and Robinson said he didn't get enough depth in his zone drop, but on Monday Frazier seemed to backtrack a bit from placing all the blame on Robinson.

Rookie Xavier Rhodes was also in the area, but he appeared to be playing man defense covering another receiver and Robinson appeared to be expecting help over the top.

"It was just a mis-error. I mean, that's all it was. I don't want to get in-depth about it, but it was just a mis-error," Rhodes said Monday.

Rhodes left the game twice with an ankle sprain but said it was "nothing major" and said he would be back, presumably for Monday night's game.

Despite the Vikings being ranked 29th in the league in pass defense, Rhodes said the cornerbacks have to remain confident.

"No matter how many plays, you still have to have confidence as a corner. In order to be a great corner or be a great secondary, you've still got to have confidence and hope so that's what we're doing," he said. "We're still working to be the best and working at getting better."


  • Among the linebackers the Seattle Seahawks worked out recently was former Viking Tyrone McKenzie, according to the Baltimore Sun. The Vikings waived McKenzie on Aug. 31 during their league-mandated roster trimming to 53 players. The Vikings will place linebacker Desmond Bishop (torn ACL) on injured reserve, making McKenzie a player of interest as the team replaces Bishop on the roster.

  • Former Vikings DE George Johnson had a tryout with the New England Patriots, according to the Sun. Johnson was waived last week to make room for former New York Giants DE Justin Trattou, whom the Vikings claimed off waivers.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

  • Viking Update Top Stories