Anderson's Tale Of His Return

Veteran Gary Anderson practiced with the team yesterday and began to assume the role of kicking field goals, explaining the process of how he learned he'd return to the team and telling the media not to worry about his range.

Gary Anderson will have to put his fly-fishing career on hold. It seems his leg is needed more than his casting ability.

Anderson, 43, the NFL's all-time leading scorer (2,133 points), re-signed with the Vikings last week, only a few months after the organization determined it could not afford to carry the kicker to only handle field-goal attempts.

But that was before coach Mike Tice saw Doug Brien miss a 44-yard field goal attempt and two extra-point attempts in the second half of a 45-39 overtime loss to Buffalo in Week 2. Brien, who went 1-for-5 on field-goal attempts in the preseason, appeared certain to be cut but was kept by Tice to handle kickoffs and possibly longer field goals.

Anderson had kept in contact with Tice, but the first indication that he was going to be wearing purple again came when Anderson called his wife a week ago Sunday from Colorado.

"She said, ‘Did you hear what happened?'" said Anderson, who was on fly-fishing trip. "Some friends had just called and said that Mike had come on the radio on Sunday evening (after the Bills loss) and said he was going to call me in the morning.

"Mike and I have been talking a little bit the last few months, so I took that all with a grain of salt. But on Monday morning he did call, so my wife called me and said, ‘Mike needs to talk to you.' I called him up and he told me the situation. He said, ‘I need you back, I've got to have you back, would you consider coming back?'

"I said, ‘I'd be glad to. We can work out the contract situation.' I went fly-fishing for the day and when I got done I talked to my agent and he said everything had worked out."

Anderson, a 20-year NFL veteran who spent the past four seasons with the Vikings, signed a one-year deal and will make a pro-rated share of the veteran's minimum of $750,000. He will handle almost all field goal attempts, although Brien is still expected to attempt longer kicks. It's uncertain what will be considered too far for Anderson, whose longest field goal in 2001 came from 44 yards.

"I make that determination every Sunday," said Anderson when asked what his range will be. "That's one of the main things I do when I go out on the field in the pregame warmups. Of course, in our dome here you are not dealing with wind, but if you are playing outside … that's what I used to tell every coach I have ever played for. ‘I think I can make it from this distance going into the wind and this distance going with the wind.' So nothing is going to change.

"The media has always been kind of amusing to me because if you kick a 50-yard field goal that seems to be the magic number. It's like ‘That guy can really still kick.' But you can kick a 45-yard field goal and clear it by 20 yards but it's still just a 45-yard field goal. I would say don't be too concerned about that range. I can still kick."

The Vikings were not the only team that felt that way. Anderson also was pursued by the New York Giants and Washington Redskins but did not want to move his sons, Austin and Douglas.

Even with all his experience, Anderson knows this won't be an easy situation.

"A few weeks ago I was doing a little bit of kicking and I had a couple of opportunities to go and play for some other teams and chose not to do that," he said. "There is no substitute for training camp, where you are kicking every day and especially kicking in the preseason games, regardless of how many years you have played.

"It's certainly going to be a little bit different out here this afternoon and on Sunday, and I'm going to have to really lean on some of the things I have learned over the years."

As a result of signing Anderson, the Vikings released linebacker Antonio Wilson. That means Tice has been forced to do exactly what he didn't want to — keep four specialists. Former punter Mitch Berger had handled kickoffs in recent seasons, saving a roster spot, but Kyle Richardson only punts. Long snapper Brody Liddiard and Brien also fall into the one-role category.

Cutting Brien would not have been a cheap move for the Vikings. As a nine-year veteran, he would have eligible to receive his $650,000 salary as termination pay at the end of the season.

Viking Update Top Stories