Sep 23, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe (5) talks on the sidelines in the fourth quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Metrodome. Vikings win 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

The Vikings Tried Out a Punter. Is Chris Kluwe Toast?

Chris Kluwe hasn’t had his best run of games recently. For whatever reason the usually reliable punter just hasn’t been getting off clean kicks. Maybe it’s a mechanical or timing issue or maybe it’s something else, maybe a mental thing. Whatever the cause of the punter’s struggles, the Vikings appear to be exploring their options in case he can’t get it together. On Tuesday the team tried out Brian Stahovich, a former punter for the Colts.

Was this a case of the Vikes trying to give Kluwe a wake-up call? Possibly. If Kluwe responds by returning to his usual form in the coming weeks, all will be forgotten. But if Kluwe keeps struggling, the Vikes won’t hesitate to make a switch. They can’t wait around too long on Kluwe, just given the nature of their offense. Their ball-control style requires a good punter who can help win the field position battle. We saw a good example of this in the last game. Kluwe’s inability to punt them out of trouble cost them dearly early against the Buccaneers. The Bucs started in good field position three straight possessions on the way to building a 13-0 lead.

Those field position issues were not all Kluwe’s doing of course. The Vikes’ offense contributed by failing to move the ball effectively. And Jerome Simpson compounded matters by fumbling. But Kluwe was a major part of why the Vikes fell behind early in that game and you can believe the fans noticed this. In a rare display of irritation against the normally popular Kluwe, boos rained down after one particularly feeble effort. Kluwe has acknowledged his own struggles and is certainly doing all within his power to correct the issue.

Some are wondering if Kluwe’s off-field activities are playing into his struggles. We know how outspokenly political he is and how much time he’s spent recently making media appearances and advocating for his causes. But I seriously doubt that has anything to do with anything. The whole punting thing is so much about repeated mechanics and timing. It’s like a golfer’s swing. And sometimes that intricate motion just gets out of whack. I have every confidence Kluwe will fix what’s wrong and be back to his old self. And if he doesn’t get it fixed? Other people can do his job. Nothing personal.

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