Kluwe Looking To Give Opener The Boot

Punter and holder Chris Kluwe didn't have a strong performance in either of his duties in the season opener, so he's looking to move with a better showing Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. See what Kluwe, Ryan Longwell and special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro had to say about the situation.

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is probably looking forward to Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers more than most. In his first play as the new holder for field goals and extra points, Kluwe botched his debut by bobbling the snap and depriving the Vikings of a seventh point after their first touchdown in the team's 19-16 win over Washington Monday night.

"I closed my hands on the ball and I when I went to transfer it into my hands it slipped through my hands," Kluwe said. "It just happened, I guess."

As a holder, Kluwe rebounded well and successfully did his part in helping the Vikings make two field goals and the other extra point after Marcus Robinson's touchdown in third quarter.

But as a punter, Kluwe struggled.

Last year, Kluwe was a serious contender for the NFC's Pro Bowl squad with a 44.1-yard average, ranking second in the conference. But on Monday night, Kluwe averaged just 38 yards on five punts.

"I just think he had a bad night," special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said. "I don't expect to see that kind of a performance from him again. He knows he needs to improve, and he will. It was just a bad evening."

Kluwe's directional punting, an area he had focused on during the preseason, was as unimpressive as his punt yardage.

"If you look at the four games prior to the Washington game, he did a great job with directional punting for four straight weeks," Ferraro said. "So we're not going to look at one game and all of a sudden decide he can't do that. He can do it, and he is going to do well with it."

Were Kluwe's botched first hold and the kicking struggles that followed a cause-effect situation? "I couldn't tell you that," Ferraro said. "I think it was just one of those things, he didn't play up to his expectation or our expectations, and we're just going to move on and get better."

Kluwe said the bobbled snap was a freak occurrence, evidenced by his other holds.

"On the next hold after the missed one, I made sure I really focused on the ball," Kluwe said. "The thing is I was upset because it hurt Ryan and it hurt my team. I can handle being embarrassed. I just feel bad that it hurt the team."

Kicker Ryan Longwell said he has full confidence in Kluwe.

"I asked him what he thought had happened and then we moved on," Longwell said. "I definitely focus on my routine and do what I normally do and then your reaction is you better start blocking."

Having punters hold for kickers has been an evolving trend in the NFL for much of the past decade. The line of thinking stems from a variety of issues.

One, punters normally have good hands since they catch a long snap every time they kick. Another reason for punters holding is practice time. Backup quarterbacks, who often hold for kickers (Brad Johnson for the Vikings last year) are working with offenses during practice. Kickers and punters can be kicking on an adjacent practice field, and Kluwe can take snaps from Cullen Loeffler as the rest of the team practices its craft. Having the punter hold for the kicker during practice makes sense.

"As a punter, you should have pretty good hands because you have to get the snap every time," Kluwe said. "And the quarterbacks are far more valuable to the team."

Kluwe, who was a holder in college at UCLA, said he welcomes the new role.

"The more you can help out the team, the more you can keep your job, so I'll do whatever it takes," Kluwe said.



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