With punter Mitch Berger ailing because of a fractured bone in his neck he suffered while making a tackle against the Titans, veteran Lee Johnson was signed yesterday. Berger, who also kicks off and holds on field goals, wanted to play in Sunday's game against the Lions, but was still in obvious pain as he walked around the Vikings' Winter Park complex Wednesday.
Johnson, 40, is the all-time leader in NFL history for career punts (1,187) and yardage (50,473). He has a career punting average of 42.5 yards and has played in 253 games during his 17-year career. Johnson played five games with the Patriots this season and had 24 punts for 1,045 yards (43.5 average) before being released on Oct. 15.
Like Berger, he also can kick off and is regarded as one of the better holders in the business.
Johnson and Berger's paths crossed before, when both were with the Bengals.
"He was in Cincinnati with me and we competed there," Johnson said. "Mitch came in late, very similar to this. But this is certainly not that type of situation. The guy's numbers obviously speak for themselves. He's a fantastic punter, one of my favorite punters. I'm shocked they kept me (in Cincinnati).
"This is merely a fill-in role and odds are I'll just be here sitting on my butt on Sunday."
Johnson was originally selected by Houston out of Brigham Young in the fifth round of the 1985 draft. He has played for the Oilers (1985-87), Browns (1987-88), Bengals (1988-98) and Patriots (1999-2001). His stay in Minnesota figures to be short, and once Berger is ready, look for Johnson to return to the unemployment line.
The Vikings made room on their roster for Johnson by placing defensive tackle Willie Howard on injured reserve. Howard suffered ligament damage in his knee and a broken leg in the Tennessee game.
New Punter an Insurance Policy
Viking Update Top Stories
Key matchup: Former teammates face offOnly time will tell who got the better of the Sam Bradford trade to the Minnesota Vikings, but he and Carson Wentz will face each other Sunday after the trade that surprised them…
Viking Update7:06 AM
Vikings podcast: Spielman, Bradford and moreThe Minnesota Vikings are showing the fruits of some solid roster building and coaching. Their record, their stats and their depth prove it, as a talk with Rick Spielman showed.
Viking Update6:17 AM
Vikings rush offense needs to improveThe Minnesota Vikings are the lone unbeaten team in the NFL, yet they are failing at one of the typical telltale signs of a winning team - being able to control the clock with a…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 8:23 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer on final preps for EaglesMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer discusses some key players for Philadelphia, his defense and if Jake Long could play.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 12:02 PM