The Kicking Quandary

Special teams coach Rusty Tillman tested his three kicking candidates this morning with a field goal contest and one came away looking like the slight favorite.

The Minnesota Vikings took their first look at the kickers at Tuesday morning's practice, and though each of the three showed a strong leg, Hayden Epstein was the most accurate.

"They put us back there kind of far," Epstein said. "But it was fun. It got the whole team riled up."

Epstein made three field goals from 50 yards or more, the longest coming from 52. Epstein is competing with Todd France and Aaron Elling for the kicking job, and all of the field goals attempted were from more than 40 yards.

"(Special teams coach Rusty Tillman) went right for the throat," coach Mike Tice said.

Epstein handled the kickoffs last season before suffering a knee injury in Game 15 against Miami. That experience gives Epstein the edge over France, who was in camp last season and then played in NFL Europe, and Elling, who was in Seattle's training camp last year and Miami the year before

"I think I can (kick) in this league, both field goals and kickoffs," Epstein said. "I know what it takes. I just have to prove it."

Tice said he doesn't expect to decide on his kicker until the final preseason cuts. Last season, kicker Doug Brien was cut in midseason after missing several kicks, and veteran Gary Anderson was signed for the rest of the season.

"We have a long ways to go, and (the kicking situation) will sort itself out," Tice said. "And I believe it will sort itself out from within."

* Backup quarterback Gus Frerotte was particularly effective Tuesday, throwing several precision passes during two-minute drills. He hooked up with Kelly Campbell on two long passes.
* There were some big hits in goal-line practices, one by safety Willie Offord and two by rookie linebacker E.J. Henderson.
* The biggest hit of practice came in a one-on-one blocking drill between the running backs and linebackers. John Avery, who goes 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds, flattened linebacker Max Yates, who is 6-3 and 238. Yates laid on the ground for a couple of minutes, but when he got up, the running backs celebrated.

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