Mike Priefer recommended Vikings dump Ryan Longwell for Blair Walsh
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer revealed on Thursday he pushed for the Minnesota Vikings to replace veteran place-kicker Ryan Longwell with rookie Blair Walsh, whom they drafted in the sixth round 10 days before Longwell's release on May 7.
"I recommended that we do what we did," Priefer said, adding that he, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier "all were on the same page.
"It was a tough deal," Priefer continued, "because (Longwell)'s been a great kicker in this league for a long time, and I just thought for the future of this football team, kickoff-wise and even on into field goal-wise, I thought it was the best move."
Longwell, 37, was the NFL's most accurate kicker from 2009 to '10, making 43 of 46 field-goal attempts (93.5%). The Vikings re-signed him to a four-year, $12 million contract that included a $3.5 million bonus in July 2011.
He was only 22 of 28 on field-goal attempts (78.6%) last season, though, and the Vikings became increasingly concerned about his leg on kickoffs -- something Walsh confirmed he had in a private campus workout with Priefer before the draft, despite a shaky senior season on place-kicks at Georgia.
Priefer said he and Longwell traded voicemails before eventually saying goodbye via text message.
"It was very amicable," Priefer said. "He's a good man."
Priefer also called Walsh to make sure he understood he was now competing against every kicker on the street now and every kicker who will be there after final cuts.
"He is a very hard worker," Priefer said of Walsh, who made 6 of 7 field-goal attempts on Thursday to improve to 15-of-16 in competitive situations in camp.
"Every day is a new challenge for him. He is not one of those young men who takes it for granted. Every day, he is coming to work and every day, he has had a great attitude. Every day, I think he has gotten a lot better, starting on day one in the spring."
Longwell remains a free agent.