Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has confirmed to Outsports that he has been cut by the team, just over a week after they drafted UCLA's Jeff Locke in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Kluwe, also from UCLA, has been the team's punter for the last eight seasons.
'I really like Minnesota," Kluwe told Outsports. "I've made a lot of friends here. It's going to be sad to not be able to play for the Vikings anymore."
Kluwe felt he would be cut as soon as Locke was drafted. "Generally if you're a punter and they draft a punter in the fifth round, that's a pretty good indication."
At the time of the draft, the question was raised about the role Kluwe's LGBT activism played in his release. At the time, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told Fox Sports:
"This was just another normal personnel move, it had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe's off-field concerns," Spielman said. "I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion. That's his right. That's his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to come in and compete."
Statistically, last season was one of Kluwe's best as a Viking, averaging 39.7 net yards (best of his career) and 45.0 gross yards (third best of his career) in 2012. This year his numbers were middle-of-the-pack; Part of that was an extraordinary year for punting, with 16 players averaging over 40.0 net yards per punt. In 2010, his net average was top-10 in the League.
Kluwe said he now owns every Vikings franchise punting record.
"I am very disappointed that the Vikings have decided to cut Chris Kluwe," said Brad Michael of Minnesotans For Equality, which enlisted Kluwe in the marriage amendment fight. "He did far more for this state than just punt a football on Sunday, we are all better off because of it. It has truly been an honor to have met him and witness what he did to help Minnesota defeat the marriage amendment."
Asked if he believed his LGBT activism contributed to his release, Kluwe said: "I don't know. I'm not in those meetings, so I'm not sure what was said. But I'd be a fool if it hadn't crossed my mind."
Rotoworld had this analysis: "Kluwe's off-the-field activism will be blamed for his release, but he simply wasn't worth his $1.4 million salary after coming in 17th in net-punting average (39.7 yards) last season."
Asked about his salary, Kluwe said there's a new provision in the collective bargaining agreement that would allow him to sign at a veteran minimum and cost the team only $560k toward the salary cap.
Various teams are reported to be in the market for a punter including the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers.