Vikings rookie kicker ready for 1st preseason game

Published 9:06am Thursday, August 9, 2012

MANKATO — The Minnesota Vikings coaches and defensive players have been trying to distract rookie kicker Blair Walsh as much as possible during practice as part of the breaking-in process at this pressure-packed position.

The other specialists on the team have been busy making Walsh as comfortable as they can.

Tomorrow, when the Vikings visit San Francisco to start the preseason, they’ll find out a little bit about the impact of their efforts.

“I’m looking forward to getting out there and kicking in front of some people and wearing that purple uniform,” said Walsh, a sixth-round draft pick from Georgia.

Walsh has missed a few midrange field goals in full-team situations, but he has shown off the strength of his leg, too. He ended a recent practice by booming a 57-yard try, with room to spare, straight through the uprights.

“He’s remained composed, so that’s a good sign,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “We talked at length about this decision throughout the offseason. So once we made that decision, you’ve got to go full speed ahead with it. So that’s where we are. No looking back now. He’s our kicker.”

The Vikings (29th in the inaugural AP Pro32 rankings) let veteran Ryan Longwell go in May at the suggestion of special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, whose belief in Walsh fueled that feeling. His performance in spring practices and for most of training camp hasn’t made that support look silly at all.