Exclusive: Vikings kicker on why PATs must stay, and how to improve them

My name is Blair Walsh, and I’m the kicker for the Minnesota Vikings.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about changing the point after touchdown, or more commonly phrased "PAT." I understand Mr. Goodell’s desire to improve the game by changing the PAT; however, eliminating the "kicking" aspect of the PAT would change the game in a negative manner and make kickers’ jobs less relevant, which, obviously, I am vehemently against.

I think the initially mentioned proposal of changing the PAT to a pass/run option for different variations of points would be a mistake. It would change the positive/long-standing scoring traditions of the game and would result in odd scores to games.

However, I am not against moving the PAT back and making the kick longer. I think that instead of the 42-yard attempt that is being talked about, the PAT should be a 38-yard attempt. Kickers, for the most part, are accurate inside of 40; however, there is enough of a track record of misses from the 30- to 39-yard range to make a 38-yard PAT somewhat exciting. Add in late-season weather, wind conditions and less room for error due to the increased distance the ball has to stay straight, and I think you have a viable solution without dramatically changing the most popular sport in America.

A 20-yard extra point can be hit extremely poorly and still be kicked through the uprights. On the contrary, a 38-yard PAT would have to be hit solidly for it to go through and would require much more accuracy from the place kicker. In turn, this makes the PAT more exciting, while keeping myself and the 31 other kickers involved in the game. It would challenge us to adapt our mindset and physical approach to the PAT.

Although I am admittedly biased, I believe that kickers do play a unique yet integral role in the game. A team that does its research and develops or signs a strong, accurate and confident kicker will be rewarded in clutch situations. Not to mention, that team will have a distinct advantage on the field-position battle on kickoffs. Eliminating returns with high and deep kicks is without a doubt an asset to a team’s defense. 

Being a kicker can be full of glory and triumph, or full of downright agony.  As kickers, we sometimes only get one attempt in a game, and if we miss that attempt, we are not guaranteed to get a chance to redeem ourselves. A longer PAT would challenge kickers to adapt and make the scoring in a game much more interesting.

Blair Walsh has kicked for the Vikings since 2012 and was a Pro Bowler in his first season in the NFL.