Kluwe Kicks Into Job Security

An NFL debut that nearly set a team record should be good enough to keep punter Chris Kluwe around for some time. See what Kluwe thinks are the challenges that lie ahead for him, even in Sunday's first road game.

That week-to-week punting situation Vikings coach Mike Tice said Chris Kluwe was living in could quickly turn into season-to-season if the rookie punter continues to kick the way he did Sunday against Tampa Bay.

After averaging a near-team record 54.3 yards after four punts, Kluwe might have climbed his way up in Tice and special teams coach Rusty Tillman's favorability standings and off the roster bubble where many kickers dwell during Tice's tenure.

Consider the laundry list of punters that have come and gone at Winter Park since Tice took over in the 2001 season finale. The revolving door at the north end of the practice complex has seen Lee Johnson, Mitch Berger, Kyle Richardson, Eddie Johnson, Leo Araguz and Darren Bennett all come and go during the 52 games Tice has coached.

None turned in a better performance than Kluwe did against Tampa. In fact, that talk of "week-to-week" surrounding Kluwe appears to be over.

"I think the only one on a week-to-week basis around here is me," Tice said. "(Kluwe) is a very good young player. He's a very promising young man. Hopefully, the consistency will be there and he'll have a great career."

Kluwe signed with the Vikings just days before the season opener. He was about to move into an apartment in Seattle, after Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren chose Araguz as the team's punter and designated Kluwe to the practice squad, when the Vikings called.

After hearing last week he was basically playing in games on a tryout basis, Kluwe welcomes Tice's words showing he will be in Minnesota for a while.

"It's always nice to see the coaches say good things about you," Kluwe said. "That felt really good. It's just what I wanted – to go out and show what I can do and show that I belong in this league."

Like any kicker, Kluwe enjoyed punting indoors. His near-record outing
Sunday came in the first time he had ever stepped inside the Metrodome.

"Kicking in the Dome's always nice because there's no wind," Kluwe said. "I felt relaxed out there, really loose and really comfortable. It was really loud and I like hearing the fans behind us cheering all the time, so that was a lot of fun."

An outdoor game Sunday at Cincinnati will offer him a new challenge.

"From what I've heard it shouldn't be too bad," Kluwe said. "The main thing I worry about is wind because it can affect the drop of the ball as it's coming down. But from what I've heard about Cincinnati it shouldn't be too bad. It won't be any worse than the Rose Bowl (where he kicked in college). It should be just like a normal game."

Tice will be watching.

"I am anxious to see how he punts on the road," Tice said.

Kluwe said the week has been fairly routine.

"It's been about the same as normal," Kluwe said. "I go out and try to do the best I can in practice and just make it tough for the coaches not to keep me.

"I just want to keep doing that and hopefully they won't let me go."

With Tice, that makes two of them.



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