Therefore, after the Vikings the released Walsh this week and brought in Kai Forbath to replace him, Priefer said he believes a change of scenery would be good for Walsh, who cleared waivers on Wednesday without another team claiming him.
“Yeah, I think it’s a change of scenery. That’s what I told him and I hope he goes to the AFC because I wouldn’t want to play him,” Priefer said. “At some point he’s going to turn it back on I think, and I think going to another place will help him. I truly believe that.”
Walsh missed four field goals through nine games and, perhaps just as damaging to his psyche, four extra points. The Vikings had tried to prop up his confidence ever since he missed a 27-yard field goal wide left to end the Vikings’ 2015 season in the first round of the playoffs.
Although Walsh didn’t show many signs of that playoff miss affecting him during the offseason or in practices, it’s hard to imagine it didn’t crop up in the back of his mind as he struggled this season.
“That’s a big, big part of the game, especially for a kicker. I think the mental part is a very, very important part of it because there’s hundreds of guys that are good enough technically-wise or (have a) strong enough leg that could kick in this league,” Priefer said. “But, when it comes down to being under pressure and in those type of situations in order to perform at a high level, a lot of it is going to be mental.”
Priefer called Tuesday a “tough day” for him when the Vikings made the decision to release Walsh, but said Walsh handled it professionally.
“He’s a true pro that handled adversity ever since last January. And since then, on and off (the field) he’s handled the adversity as best as any young man could,” Priefer said. “I was real proud of him for that and I think he’s going to be better for it in the long run as a person and as a football player.”
Walsh has maintained over the last 10 months that he has blocked out the criticism and continued to stay confident. But, clearly, as the misses increased, so did the pressure mounting on him.
“Anybody that’s gone through all the criticism that he’s faced the last several months, I think going to a new place is going to help him kind of get a fresh start,” Priefer said. “And I think you see that with any type of position, but maybe in particular kickers and punters. The microscope is always on them so much. I think it’s going to help him like it would help any other player.”
“… I kind of take it all personally that maybe I could’ve done more to help him succeed at this level. So, like you said, a lot of it is on Blair, but at the end of the day maybe I could’ve done something else. I don’t know because when he got here he wasn’t a real accurate kicker. He became an accurate kicker and he had his ups and downs from there. But, I think I did the best I could with him. I know the guys that I’ve coached in the past know I’ve done the best I could with them while they’re here. And when they part ways, they part ways. It’s a part of the business.”