Zimmer on struggling Walsh: ‘I still believe in him’
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Blair Walsh remained outside after the rest of the Minnesota Vikings had finished practicing for the day, booming kick after kick into the amber late-afternoon sky and through the uprights.
The well-paid, highly scrutinized job was still his Wednesday and for the foreseeable future, after the Vikings hosted six free agents for a tryout and passed on the opportunity to sign one.
"You’ve got to work hard, which I always do," said Walsh, a reluctant subject in a brief interview with reporters after his extra session was over.
Walsh, who missed his NFL-high third extra point of the season and had a field goal blocked in the overtime loss Sunday to Detroit, declined to divulge the specifics of recent conversations with coach Mike Zimmer. Walsh also denied feeling any pressure from the team’s consideration of potential replacements.
"I have to do my job and be dependable for my team," he said. "That’s how I look at it."
The view expressed by Zimmer was sure brighter than the ominous warning he sounded Monday about Walsh’s future with the team.
"I still believe in him," the coach said, after citing winning field goals Walsh made last year on the final snap at Chicago and in overtime against St. Louis.
The Vikings also reviewed the history of Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby, who was in danger of losing his place with Minnesota’s rival during the 2012 season. He missed 12 field goals for a career-worst 63.6 percent conversion rate that year. In 2013, Crosby posted the best mark of his 10-year career: 89.2 percent.
"I think we all believe in Blair. We all trust Blair. Obviously, I haven’t been here as long as some of the guys, but Blair has been a really good kicker for this team for a while," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "As long as he’s our kicker, we have full faith in him that he’s going to go out there and make it. We watch him do it in practice every day, and so I’ve got all the confidence in the world that when he steps onto the field he’s going to make it."
Zimmer, as blunt and hard-nosed as coaches come, was especially critical of the team’s first loss at Philadelphia Oct. 23. This week, he has struck an appreciative, contemplative and optimistic tone.
"With all the stuff that went on the last couple weeks, for them to go out and act like my football team again, finally, I felt it was a good thing," said Zimmer, who didn’t watch the kicker workouts Tuesday because he had a second procedure done on his right eye.
"I told them if I can get six needles stuck in my eye in the last two weeks, then they can suck it up for me," Zimmer said.