EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has never shied from sharing his opinion on a wide variety of subjects via his Twitter page, @ChrisWarcraft, and last week he took aim at a sensitive subject in NFL circles: replacement officials.
Four days later, Kluwe wasn’t backing away from his tweets regarding poor officiating in last Friday’s preseason game against the San Diego Chargers. The regular referees have been locked out by the NFL with the league using replacements to officiate the preseason games.
“It’s one of those things where you just look out there and it’s like the difference between having a high-school guy play in the NFL versus an NFL guy playing in the NFL,” Kluwe said Tuesday. “The speed’s totally different. Those guys are trying hard, but they’re just not used to the speed of the game and they’re missing a lot of stuff.”
Kluwe was especially upset after Friday’s game, when replacement officials seemingly missed a few calls, including some obvious turnovers that had to go to replay to have the original calls reversed. Not long after the game, Kluwe shared his stance on the ongoing referees’ lockout and the replacements.
“I’m sure they’re trying hard, but they’re just not good. So many blown calls tonight in both directions,” Kluwe tweeted. “The NFL really needs to kiss and make up with the refs. These replacements are horrible. Frankly, it’s kind of embarrassing.”
With so much riding on each game in a 16-game season and the potential of one call to swing the outcome a game, Kluwe says the league can’t afford mistakes.
“Look at last year, the Giants, the eventual Super Bowl champions, they were one game out from not making the playoffs,” Kluwe said. “So if you get one bad call that takes a game the complete other way, the entire season’s different. It’s much more of a sprint in the NFL, as opposed to other sports where it’s a marathon. So I don’t think the league can afford to have a mistake like that because then one of those playoff bubble teams might not get in.”
Kluwe’s criticism has been rare among players. Even though the quality of the referees has been noticeably down in the preseason, few players have been complaining on the record.
“It was more recommended that we don’t talk about it,” Kluwe said. “It wasn’t a flat-out, ‘Hey don’t talk about this or we’ll fine you.’ At this point, like how when we put film out there everyone can see it, well the refs have put film out there and I think everyone has seen it. Hopefully they can get something done in the next week or so.”
Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier knows Kluwe is outspoken and has talked with the sometimes controversial punter in the past. In regard to the officials, Frazier isn’t too concerned with Kluwe’s opinions — yet.
“He definitely has his opinion about things, and he tends to share those,” Frazier said. “But we’ve had some discussions, and for the most part he’s adhered to some of the things we’ve talked about and he’s handled himself pretty well over time. I don’t want to speak too soon. I don’t know what the next hot topic will be in our country that has to be spoken about. For the most part, we’ve been on the same page with some things and we’ll just have to see how things go forward. But he does a good job at his job, and that’s important.”
Kluwe’s Twitter comments do run the gamut. After tweeting about the refs on Friday, Kluwe showed his displeasure for San Diego rookie Melvin Ingram leveling Vikings returner Jarius Wright on a punt in which Wright faked a catch. Ingram was penalized on the play.
During training camp, Kluwe tweeted often about the less than ideal conditions for the players in the Mankato dormitories. This week, he was offering up inside information about the happenings at Winter Park, the team’s home in Eden Prairie.
“Second blackout of the day at Winter Park. I think we get running water installed on Friday,” Kluwe tweeted.
Tuesday, he also spilled the beans on a prank, writing on his Twitter page, “Greatest locker room prank ever. A RB listed one of the other RBs’ truck on Craigslist for sale with his number. He’s had 5 calls so far…No name or ID, just a well crafted story about how he needs to ditch the truck for $6k. It’s a very nice truck.#26inchrimsyeahboooooooyeee”
It’s just more of the same for Kluwe, the resident pop culture commentator and social media star for the Vikings.
“That’s just kind of me,” Kluwe said. “I tend to speak out on whatever I’m going to speak out on. I do try to make sure to not make the Vikings look bad. That’s the one line I try not to cross.”