EAGAN, Minn. — The NFL hasn’t seen a full-time combo kicker since Frank Corral handled all aspects of kicking and punting for the Los Angeles Rams in 1981.
The Minnesota Vikings have routinely allotted two roster spots for their specialists who handle kicking and punting duties. But after sending a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens in a trade for Kaare Vedvik on Sunday, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he is open to the idea of letting the second-year punter/kicker perform both roles.
“Yeah, if he’s good enough, I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” Zimmer said. “But I don’t know. Again, I think everything is a possibility at this point.”
Vedvik is set to compete with Vikings kicker Dan Bailey and punter Matt Wile for one or more starting roles. In the Ravens’ preseason opener on Thursday, Vedvik was 4-for-4 on field goals against the Jacksonville Jaguars, with makes from 55, 45, 26 and 29 yards. He also booted 58-yard and 53-yard punts against the Jags.
The Norway native, who played soccer growing up, came to the United States in high school and learned how to kick field goals. Upon attending Marshall University, Vedvik added punting to his repertoire. By his senior season in 2017, he was handling both kicking and punting for the Thundering Herd; he earned first-team All-Conference USA honors as a punter, made 10 of 16 field goals and was 41-of-42 on extra points.
“Then coming into the Ravens, they also gave me the opportunity to do all three in the preseason [in 2018], and it has continued to now,” Vedvik said.
The Ravens already were heavy with their group of veteran specialists between kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch, so Vedvik’s phenomenal preseason debut last week provided him the opportunity to win a starting job elsewhere.
With Minnesota, it could be as a kicker, a punter or both. But the challenges of handling that workload aren’t lost on Zimmer.
“It’s probably difficult for a rookie, I would think,” Zimmer said. “You’ve got a rookie snapper and then you’d have a rookie punter and a rookie kicker and then you’ve got to find somebody to hold.”
On Monday, Vedvik worked with Vikings specialists on a side field, wearing a No. 7 jersey that didn’t yet have his name on the back following a whirlwind 24 hours. He kicked field goals of 60 and 62 yards off the tee in practice and booted punts in front of special-teams coaches. The Vikings did not have a field goal period in practice on Monday.
The capacity to do both jobs plays into Vedvik’s confidence that he can manage his body in practice should he be asked to punt and kick.
“It’s just about being smart,” he said. “You know, don’t overdo anything, keep it efficient, keep it effective, be smart about the reps you do, so when you execute reps, you execute them well. Then you get to manage that workload that way. It feels pretty much just like doing any of them.”
Addressing the trade for the first time on Monday, Zimmer said he wasn’t looking for additional kickers ahead of when Minnesota traded for Vedvik. And the coach again voiced his support for Bailey, the fifth-most accurate kicker in NFL history, who has had an up-and-down preseason and has yet to notch a perfect practice.
Some of those struggles, Zimmer noted, are related to the holding situation with Wile, while others might be a associated with Bailey having to work with two long snappers. On Sunday night, Minnesota released veteran long snapper Kevin McDermott in favor of Austin Cutting.
“I like Dan Bailey a lot,” Zimmer said. “So I called Jerry Rosburg when there was a possibility this might happen because I wanted to find out about this kid [Vedvik]. Jerry Rosburg was the special-teams coach in Baltimore and a good friend of mine. I asked him, is he a punter, is he a kicker, what is he? Is he a kickoff guy? He just said he’s an NFL talent. So that’s where we went from there. I still don’t know what he is. And I won’t know for — I definitely won’t know today.”