Kluwe says he’s been released by Vikings

The Vikings released punter Chris Kluwe on Monday, bringing an
end to his colorful and outspoken eight-year stay in Minnesota.

Kluwe announced the news on Twitter shortly after meeting with
Vikings GM Rick Spielman, a move that had been expected ever since
the team spent a fifth-round draft pick on punter Jeff Locke at the
end of last month.

Kluwe said he knew what was bound to happen as soon as he saw
Locke come off the board and he was pleased to get his release
earlier enough in the summer to give him a chance to catch on with
another team.

”If that was the direction the Vikings wanted to go, it gives
me a better chance to go to another team,” Kluwe said in a phone
conversation on Monday evening.

The 31-year-old Kluwe averaged 44.4 yards per punt over his
career in Minnesota, including a career-high 39.7 yard net average
last season.

But he ranked just 17th in the NFL in punting and was due to
make $1.45 million this season, making him a prime target to be
cut. He said he thinks he has four or five good years left in his
playing career before he heads off to other endeavors, of which
there are sure to be many.

During his time with the Vikings, Kluwe earned a reputation as
one of the most opinionated players in the league. He criticized
union leadership during the lockout, wore a patch on his uniform to
protest the lack of punters in the Hall of Fame and, most notably,
became a vocal supporter of gay rights, penning a number of
thoughtful, and occasionally profane, columns on the issue for
various websites. He also plays in a rock band in his spare time
and is an avid video gamer.

”Whenever I was in the locker room or on the football field, I
was focused entirely on football,” Kluwe said. ”It was my one and
only focus. When I left the locker room to go home, I lived my
life.”

Kluwe’s release means the league’s two most vocal advocates for
gay rights are now out of work. Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was
cut by Baltimore in April.

Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made it clear
later last season that Kluwe’s headline-grabbing nature was wearing
thin with him. When Kluwe was fined more than $5,000 for putting a
message reading ”Vote Ray Guy” over a patch on his jersey
commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
in December, Priefer voiced his displeasure.

”Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest
with you,” Priefer said. ”Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in
the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there’s other ways of going about
doing it, in my opinion.”

Kluwe said he couldn’t say for sure if his off-the-field
pursuits contributed to his release.

”I don’t know,” he said. ”I wasn’t in those meetings.”

When the Vikings drafted Locke, Spielman was asked if Kluwe’s
outspoken nature would factor at all into the decision to keep him
or cut him.

”I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his
opinion,” Spielman said then. ”That’s his right. That’s his
freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a
guy and come in and compete.”

In the end, Kluwe didn’t get much of a chance to compete. Locke
attended the team’s first rookie camp over the weekend, and Kluwe
was out a few days later.

It was a move similar to last season when the Vikings drafted
kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round and quickly released the more
experienced, and more expensive, Ryan Longwell.

”So sorry to hear about (Kluwe’s release)…one of the best
legs I’ve seen and best teammates I had in all my years,” Longwell
tweeted. ”Do you believe in deja vu??”

Also factoring into the decision is the Vikings will be playing
their final season in the Metrodome before moving outdoors to the
University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank stadium while their new stadium
is built. Kluwe seemed to have a more difficult time punting
outdoors and the Vikings hope the move to the younger Locke will
help them in that area.

The Vikings also waived rookie receiver Nicholas Edwards and
signed two other rookie free agents – Minnesota State, Mankato
receiver Adam Thielen and Northern Iowa tackle Brandon Keith.

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