The Minnesota Vikings have completed their plan to turn over their kicking duties to rookie Daniel Carlson, releasing veteran Kai Forbath with two weeks remaining in the preseason.
For all the training camp drills and exhibition game extra points the Vikings can give Carlson, there’s no way for him to experience the pressure and scrutiny that comes with the job on a championship-chasing team.
For all the calm the Southeastern Conference’s all-time scoring leader has exhibited around Vikings headquarters since they drafted him out of Auburn in the fifth round in April, there’s no way for them to know how he’ll handle the enormous responsibility until September.
”We’ll just see how it goes,” coach Mike Zimmer said on Monday after Forbath was let go. ”You make your decision, and you live with it.”
Forbath took both field goal tries in Minnesota’s exhibition game on Saturday against Jacksonville and missed one when it hit the right upright. In 25 games with the Vikings, including the playoffs, Forbath made 48 of 56 extra points and 50 of 57 field goals.
He stabilized the position when a struggling Blair Walsh left it in disarray midway through the 2016 season and made his share of clutch kicks, but the 30-year-old never quite found enough of a groove to gain the team’s full trust.
The Vikings were looking for more depth on their kickoffs as well as consistency on field goals and extra points, and the 6-foot-5 Carlson has the stronger leg.
”At the end of the day it’s who can make the important kicks and who the team has confidence in, so I feel really good that the coaches and the staff have entrusted me with that confidence,” Carlson said.
He was quick to credit Forbath for his class in handling a dynamic that could’ve been awkward from the day the Vikings took Carlson with the 167th overall selection. Forbath has kicked for three NFL teams, mostly with Washington.
”Kai’s given me a run for my money, and he’s had a lot of success here and elsewhere. So it was a great competition,” Carlson said, adding: ”I wish him nothing but the best, but I’m excited to be staying around here and get ready for the real work.”
The Vikings invested a sixth-round draft pick in Walsh in 2012 and watched him become an All-Pro as a rookie. He never repeated that performance, though, and four seasons later the team had no choice but to start fresh. Now they’re counting on not having to make any more changes with the role for many years.
”Every kick’s a pressure kick, and you know your job is going to be on the line and it’s probably going to be decided on a few different kicks,” Carlson said, adding: ”You want to be on a winning team. … I’m just going to take that and run with it.”
The game on Saturday was particularly painful for the bottom of the roster, with five players injured and needing assistance off the field. Defensive end Ade Aruna (right knee) was placed on injured reserve on Monday. Offensive lineman Cedrick Lang (right leg) and fullback Johnny Stanton (left leg) were waived with an injured designation, meaning they must clear waivers before being placed on injured reserve. Tight end Josiah Price (right knee) was also waived-injured, after getting hurt in practice last week. The Vikings signed two players to fill open spots, including fullback Kobe McCrary, who played in college at Minnesota.
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