Notebook: Vikings' decision to release Ryan Longwell was twofold
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman called the decision to release Ryan Longwell a "tough one" and acknowledged Monday's move was made in part because of the veteran's lack of distance on kickoffs and because of the team's desire to get younger.
"Ryan has won a lot of ballgames for us," Spielman said Wednesday at Winter Park following a press conference held to update the media on the progress of running back Adrian Peterson's recovery from a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. "Ryan has had a very good career here. Not even what he does on the field, but what he does off the field.
"It's just unique and special and he's a special person. Those are the decisions that are tough ones to make. It's like we had to make a couple other very tough decisions earlier, back in March when we started off.
"I think our emphasis has always been trying to get our team better, get it younger and that's the direction we kind of went. It just fits in with everything else we're kind of honed in on this offseason. But I can't say enough good things about Ryan Longwell."
With the spot for kickoffs moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line last season, Longwell finished with a career-high 19 touchbacks. Still, that placed the Vikings in a tie with Buffalo for 28th in the NFL in that category. Only the New York Jets (17), St. Louis Rams (15) and Cleveland Browns (10) had fewer touchbacks.
Longwell, who will turn 38 on Aug. 16 and has played 15 NFL seasons, became expendable after the Vikings used a sixth-round pick on Blair Walsh in last month's draft. Walsh had an erratic senior season at Georgia, missing 14 of 35 field-goal attempts, but he does have a big leg and will be expected to increase the number of touchbacks by a significant margin.
"The kickoffs are a huge part of our game because you're seeing teams and how they eliminate the (kickoff return men), and we play some very explosive (return men) in this division," Spielman said. "Being able to have touchbacks can be a huge advantage, too."
The Packers have an explosive return man in Randall Cobb, who averaged 27.7 yards on 34 kickoff returns last season. The Lions have Stefan Logan, who averaged 25.2 yards on 33 returns. The Bears, of course, can use Devin Hester in certain situations.
Longwell hit on only 78.6 percent of his field-goal attempts (22 of 28) last season but he wasn't helped when veteran long snapper Cullen Loeffler was lost for the season in late November because of a back injury and his replacement, Matt Katula, struggled at times.
Spielman would only say that Longwell probably didn't have his best season, but added he would not be surprised if he finds work in the NFL.
As for the timing of the move, Spielman said: "I think the biggest thing is to be fair to Ryan. If we felt that strongly about the rookie kicker, to give Ryan an opportunity to now (find work elsewhere) instead of waiting until the end of training camp.
"We tried to do that with some of the other veterans we released. We didn't want to wait. We wanted to give them an opportunity to go out and get jobs because I think that's fair to do that for your players whenever you can."
That's the end of that
Peterson didn't hesitate long when asked for his reaction to the NFL's harsh penalties against the New Orleans Saints for their use of a bounty system on defense from 2009 to 2011.
"I bet it don't happen again," Peterson said. "Hey, I feel for those guys, (Jonathan) Vilma and Will Smith and those guys that got punished and I don't wish them (bad) at all. To be honest, that was my first thought. I thought, well, I'm sure guys will think twice about doing this again. It was unfortunate, but, hey, it happened. It is what it is."
Vilma has been suspended for the entire 2012 season by the NFL but he has filed an appeal.
Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who is now with Green Bay, was suspended eight games, defensive end Will Smith was suspended for four games and linebacker Scott Fujita got three games. Fujita is now with Cleveland. All have appealed.
• Spielman confirmed the Vikings worked out free-agent Rocky McIntosh on Tuesday but said there is no deal in place with the veteran linebacker. Spielman said the Vikings will continue to monitor available linebackers and will have other players coming in for workouts.
• The Vikings plan to open negotiations with their 10 draft picks when the rookies return to Winter Park next week. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement means draft picks are far more slotted into their salaries than they were in previous years and makes getting contracts done far easier.