Darren Bennett Fine with Part-Time Role

Darren Bennett has no illusions of turning his part-time punting gig with the Vikings into an audition back into the league. Find out how the veteran is approaching the next week or two.

It wasn't as if Darren Bennett was sitting by the phone, waiting for it to ring.

But it's Christmas time, the NFL pays well, and his wife, Rosemary, kicked him out the door when she heard he had another chance to punt for the Minnesota Vikings.

Bennett will punt for the Vikings Sunday when they host the St. Louis Rams. Bennett beat out former ex-Vikings Leo Araguz and Nick Murphy in a three-way kicking competition earlier this week at the Metrodome.

Exactly how long Bennett will be a Viking is uncertain. Chris Kluwe hurt his knee last week in Detroit and is out for Sunday's game. Kluwe's status is uncertain for the Dec. 18 game against Pittsburgh, but head coach Mike Tice said Wednesday Kluwe's injury wouldn't be season-ending.

Bennett, 40, has spent the fall living with his wife and two sons in the Twin Cities, and occasionally visiting San Diego, where he started an Internet procurement company. But now that the Vikings need a part-time punter, Bennett is happy to oblige. He emphasizes, though, this is only an assignment for a week, maybe two tops.

"I'm here for a week until Chris gets healthy, then I'm back to retirement," Bennett said. "It's nice to come in for a week and see all the guys. It's weird hanging out with all them, but when Chris gets healthy, he'll be back in and finish the season.

"I have no aspirations in doing a little longer than a couple of weeks until Chris is healthy. I'm not looking to find another team later on. I'll go back to retirement and back to my life as a father."

When he wasn't working on his upstart Internet company, Bennett was undertaking home improvement projects and hunting with sons Will and Thomas. Now that he is at Winter Park, it's safe to say he enjoys punting more than, say, tiling floors at home.

"Home Depot is getting good worth out of me," Bennett said. "I have to go back and buy extra stuff every time I mess something up. Once you tile for a little while you realize football's a great gig."

Even though the Vikings released him a week before the 2005 regular season opener, Bennett says he held no animosity toward the team whose preseason pink slip led to his retirement.

"My family's been to a couple of the (Vikings) games," Bennett said. "When you spend so much time with the guys, you take an interest in what they do, even if you're not part of it anymore. We've been here and we've seen most of the games, so it's been a lot of fun."

Bennett's hunting partner was happy to see him.

"We're great friends. We've kept in touch and gone to a few lunches together and done some hunting and fishing together," long snapper Cullen Loeffler said. "We had last year together so we're just going to get back out there and get in the groove."

Because he didn't have plans of returning to the NFL, Bennett hasn't spent the season working out and practicing punting. In fact, he said, the extended time off might help his leg strength Sunday.

"Sometimes it's better not to kick too much," he said. "You get tired in training camp when you spend all day on your feet. I wouldn't say tiling is a great way to stay in shape, but that's what I've been doing the last few months."

Even though he doesn't expect to stay long, Bennett said he would punt for the Vikings as long as they need him.

"When something like this happens, you never know how long it's going to be," Bennett said. "It's the old cliché, you have to take it week to week, so that's what I'm going to do. Hopefully I'll do a good job this weekend, see if Chris is healthy next week. If he is, he'll punt. If not, then I'll sign up for another week.

"It's nice to get a couple of the checks before Christmas. That's one of the reasons my wife kicked me out the door. Obviously you want to come in and do a good job for the team. Chris has been so solid all year, you want to go in and do the same thing. Hopefully, with my legs rested I hope I can come in and do that."

Bennett, a native of Perth, Western Australia, joined the NFL after a lengthy Australian Football League career. While on his honeymoon in 1994, he asked the San Diego Chargers to give him an audition. During his nine years with the Chargers, he played in two Pro Bowls. He was named to the Hall of Fame's Team of the Decade for the 1990s.

Last year with the Vikings, he averaged 39.3 yards.

"He punted pretty well down at the Metrodome the other day," Tice said. "We'll see how Chris is. We'll give two weeks. Darren will punt at least one week. That will give Chris two weeks."

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