In the time period following the 2016 NFL Draft, we (along with other sources) speculated that the Minnesota Vikings were going to be bringing in some sort of competition for fourth-year punter Jeff Locke. The team had held private workouts and had a couple of punters in for their first rookie mini-camp, but none of them were signed by the team.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, it doesn't sound like the team plans on bringing in anyone anytime soon.
"I think it depends on how Jeff does the rest of the spring and how comfortable [G.M.] Rick [Spielman] is and how comfortable Coach [Mike] Zimmer is and we'll talk about that as the spring goes on," he said. "We had two good, young rookie punters at minicamp who performed very, very well so we know those guys are out there if we need to go that route."
Texas Tech's Taylor Symmank and West Virginia's Nick O'Toole, the two punters who auditioned at rookie minicamp, have not signed elsewhere.
After the 2015 season ended, Priefer challenged Locke, who is now in the final year of his contract, to be a more consistent punter. Priefer said he has liked what he has seen from Locke in that area so far this spring.
"He's actually come back strong," Priefer said. "He's a very good punter. People want to look at the total numbers and the raw numbers from last year, but he punted in TCF for eight regular season games and a playoff game. And if you compare the numbers to the [opponent's punter] on those certain days, he punted just as good as or better than them."
Over the three years since the Vikings drafted him out of UCLA, Locke has been. . .well, not very good for the most part. He's had numerous problems in the punting game over the past couple of years, and there was speculation that his hold played a role in Blair Walsh duck-hooking the 27-yard field goal attempt that could have won the Vikings' playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks in January.
Perhaps Locke is one of those players that will benefit from moving indoors to U.S. Bank Stadium this season. I'm still a little bit surprised that the Vikings haven't yet brought anyone in to push him a bit, but as Spielman says, they know that guys they like are out there should Locke's performance start to falter again.