Elling, Edinger Battle Is A Kick

Both the leading candidates to become the Vikings' kicker – Aaron Elling and Paul Edinger – are welcoming the challenge and speaking openly about it. And the results so far are good.

Aaron Elling would welcome the opportunity for his whirlwind life to come to a screeching halt. So, too, would his newlywed wife, Jenna.

A year ago last spring, Elling got married. He spent last fall in the Vikings' training camp, then was cut in the final week. He latched on with Tennessee and kicked and punted for the Titans when Joe Nedney was injured. The Titans released him after the first week and the Vikings re-signed him days later. Then, Nov. 17 against the Colts, Elling suffered a broken ankle when he tried to make a tackle following one of his kickoffs.

Elling entered camp with a slight lead to being the Vikings' 2005 kicker. He carries a slight lead over former Chicago Bears kicker Paul Edinger because Elling can handle both field goal and kickoff chores. Edinger could, too, but his leg isn't as strong.

Regardless, neither is a shoo-in in what promises to be one of the more exciting training camp battles this month.

Elling, who lives in Chaska, Minn., hopes to settle in Minnesota for a while. But he knows nothing is guaranteed in the NFL.

"Nomads For Life — NFL, right," Elling said. "I told my wife that if we can make it through this and last year, then we can make it through anything. But we don't need to live in one spot. Of course we want to stay here, but every kicker knows coming in that this is the way it's going to be."

Coach Mike Tice is implementing a different sort of kicking regimen during the preseason. Rather than put huge weight on performances during exhibition games, he is gauging his decision on results on a day-to-day basis during practices, too.

"We have enough situational kicking that I've sprinkled in throughout camp that we won't even need a preseason game, I don't think, to tell who's going to be our kicker," Tice said.

Elling, 27, welcomes the change. "We're doing all sorts of situations," he said. "There is going to be a lot more kicking in practice so we have to be ready all the time — sort of like a game. That'll make us better and it's going to be a good system."

So far, each of the kickers has done well during in-practice field goal sessions.

Edinger, also 27 years old, slumped for the Bears last season. He totaled a career-low 67 points and made just 15 of 24 field-goal attempts. He knows the pressure is on, even during the first week of training camp.

"There's no leeway," said Edinger. "I have to be at my best. I missed a kick (during the first day of practice) and that's not acceptable."

Last season, Morten Andersen handled the field goal chores while Elling (prior to his broken ankle) was the kickoff specialist. The Vikings say they will not keep two kickers on the roster this season.

Elling insists he has learned much from last year.

"The thing that I take from last year is you have to take everything with a grain of salt," he said. "You're going to have the ups and downs, but keeping an even keel is what I'm trying to do this year. "



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