The Vikings added competition for punter Chris Kluwe in Round Five, selecting UCLA’s Jeff Locke with the No. 155 pick.
Locke averaged 43.3 yards on 77 punts in 2012, forcing 36 fair catches and having 34 attempts downed inside the opposition’s 20-yard-line. Moreover, he was exceptional on kickoffs, with 68 touchbacks in 89 attempts.
In a text message to PFT’s Mike Florio Saturday, Kluwe indicated he welcomed the challenge.
“I’m looking forward to competing for the Vikings’ punting job, as I would love to spend my entire career here, and as the best punter in Vikings history I’m enjoying the chance to show what I can do,” Kluwe said.
Kluwe posted a 39.7-yard net average on 72 punts in 2012, his best net average since entering the NFL in 2005. Like Locke, he is a UCLA product. Off the field, Kluwe is known for his social activism and his social media presence; he has more than 167,000 Twitter followers.
Late last season, after Kluwe was fined for putting a message on his jersey supporting Ray Guy’s Hall of Fame candidacy, Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer showed his irritation.
“I don’t even want to talk about that,” Priefer said, according to a transcript from the club. “Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you. Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame Absolutely, but there’s other ways of going about doing it, in my opinion.”
In reply to a follow-up question about Kluwe, Priefer said: “He’s got to focus on punting and holding.”
The Vikings are already strong on kickoffs, with rookie placekicker Blair Walsh forcing 53 touchbacks in 86 attempts in 2012. If the Vikings want to reduce Walsh’s workload, then Locke may have an advantage, as Kluwe has just six career regular-season kickoffs.
Then there’s the matter of the Vikings using a fifth-round selection on Locke. PFT asked Kluwe if he believed this gave Locke an edge in the competition.
“It means they have invested in him, but it always comes down to how you perform under the lights,” Kluwe replied via text. “This is the NFL. We all get cut for someone younger and cheaper eventually.”