With the drafting of Jeff Locke in the fifth round of the NFL Draft in April, it seemed the writing was on the wall that Chris Kluwe’s time with the Minnesota Vikings was coming to an end. After eight seasons serving as the team’ punter, the Vikings released Kluwe in May.
According to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, special teams coach Mike Priefer felt “very strongly” the Vikings needed to go in another direction.
“I just felt like we needed to make a change there,” Priefer said.
The change was easier to make once the Vikings selected Locke. After getting a chance to see Locke during the Vikings’ rookie mini-camp, the team made the decision to release Kluwe. He later signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders.
Priefer called Kluwe “a distraction” last season after he wore a “Vote Ray Guy” patch over the league’s 50th Anniversary Hall of Fame patches for a game in December. Combined with his outspokenness in support of the LGBT community, it seemed as though the reasons for replacing Kluwe could have been more due to his off-field actions than his on-field performance. But Priefer said that wasn’t the case.
“I have a lot of respect for Chris Kluwe,” Priefer said. “I think, based on what he’s done in his career, as a man and as an athlete, and for anybody that stands up for what he believes in like Chris did, I have a lot of respect for guys like that.”
In the end, Priefer said the Vikings were seeking “more consistency and productivity” from the position.