EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings punter Jeff Locke has struggled at times during his first three seasons with the team, and some have wondered this spring if the Vikings would sign someone to compete with Locke before the final season of his rookie contract. It didn't sound on Wednesday like the Vikings have immediate plans to do so.
The Vikings brought in two punters for their rookie minicamp in May, but didn't sign either one. Though special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said the Vikings haven't ruled out bringing in competition for Locke, he didn't seem to think it was imperative they go that route.
"He's actually come back stronger," Priefer said. "We talked back in January that, one of the most important things for Jeff to understand is that he has to be a more consistent performer. He's a very good punter. People want to look at the total numbers and the raw numbers from last year, but he punted in TCF (Bank Stadium) for eight regular-season games and a playoff game. If you compare his numbers to the other guys he competed against on those certain days, he punted just as good or better than the rest of them, and his indoor punts were phenomenal last year, the three games indoors. I feel very confident about Jeff going forward."
Locke was 32nd in the league in net punting average last season, and he ranked 25th in the league, according to ESPN Stats and Information, in the percentage of punts he put inside the 10-yard line. Though both punters the Vikings worked out -- Texas Tech's Taylor Symmank and West Virginia's Nick O'Toole -- are still on the open market, it doesn't sound like the Vikings see an immediate need to get one of them on the roster for the rest of their spring program.
Here are some other notes and observations from the Vikings' second open organized team activity on Wednesday:
Matt Kalil, who wasn't working with the first-team offense last week, was back with the top unit in team drills on Wednesday. Center John Sullivan, who is returning from back surgery, was also with the first-team group on Wednesday after working with the backups last week. Joe Berger, who started in Sullivan's absence last season, was with the No. 2 group Wednesday. Phil Loadholt and Andre Smith split snaps with the first unit at right tackle, and T.J. Clemmings continued to get some work on the left side. When the Vikings finalize their roster, they will need offensive linemen that can play in more than one spot, and Clemmings' immediate future could be as a swing tackle.
For the second straight week, linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd were held out of practice. Coach Mike Zimmer said last week that Floyd was still dealing with lingering effects from the knee and ankle injuries he had last season, but played it coy with Barr, saying, "I don't think he's injured." Barr, who was held back because of knee issues during the spring program a year ago, wouldn't discuss his status on Wednesday, other than to say, "(We're) just being smart about it; taking it easy for now." Defensive tackle Linval Joseph was also held out of team drills on Wednesday, as were cornerback Mackensie Alexander, linebacker Travis Lewis, guard Mike Harris and tackle Austin Shepherd.
Adrian Peterson was on the practice field on Wednesday, but merely jogged through a few running back drills without a helmet, and didn't take part in team work. Given that Vikings still have eight weeks until the start of training camp, they're obviously erring on the side of caution with a number of veteran players. The team's mandatory minicamp in two weeks is the most important period of the offseason, and it will provide a better sense of how healthy the team is at the end of the offseason program.
Pro Football Hall of Famer John Randle was on hand for practice on Wednesday, as was Obadiah Gamble, the six-year-old who released a hip-hop video to invite Teddy Bridgewater to his birthday party last month. Gamble said hello to Bridgewater before practice, and played catch with receiver Troy Stoudermire after practice. And Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was in the house, chatting with Peterson and safety Harrison Smith, among others, on the sideline. Hey -- Smith has a contract extension looming, doesn't he?