Chris Kluwe cut by Vikings

Chris Kluwe's time with the Minnesota Vikings is over as the punter was released on Monday.

Kluwe tweeted his goodbyes to the team and state from his verified Twitter account Monday morning shortly after meeting with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.

"So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish!" Kluwe wrote. He added: "Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn't have traded it for anything."

Spielman said in a statement that Kluwe "contributed to many victories and we wish Chris and his family the best and thank him for his contributions to the Vikings organization.

"Out of respect to Chris, we decided to release him now and allow time for him to sign with another team."

"If that was the direction the Vikings wanted to go, it gives me a better chance to go to another team," Kluwe said in a phone conversation with The Associated Press on Monday evening.

The Vikings drafted UCLA's Jeff Locke last month as Kluwe's likely replacement, and Monday's long-expected move came after Locke made it through the team's rookie minicamp unscathed over the weekend.

It was a move similar to last season when the Vikings drafted kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round and quickly released the more experienced, and more expensive, Ryan Longwell.

Kluwe, 31, had one year remaining on his contract. He earned national attention last year for his support of gay marriage.

Kluwe averaged 44.4 yards per punt over his career in Minnesota, including a career-high 39.7 yard net average last season. But he ranked just 17th in the NFL in punting and was due to make $1.45 million this season, making him a prime target to be cut.

During his time with the Vikings, Kluwe earned a reputation as one of the most opinionated players in the league. He criticized union leadership during the lockout, wore a patch on his uniform to protest the lack of punters in the Hall of Fame and, most notably, became a vocal supporter of gay rights, penning a number of thoughtful, and occasionally profane, columns on the issue for various websites. He also plays in a rock band in his spare time and is an avid video gamer.

"And thank you everyone for your support," Kluwe tweeted. "Remember, one label does not define who you are as a person."

Kluwe's release means the league's two most vocal advocates for gay rights are now out of work. Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was cut by Baltimore in April.

Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer made it clear later last season that Kluwe's headline-grabbing nature was wearing thin with him. When Kluwe was fined more than $5,000 for writing "Vote Ray Guy" over a patch on his jersey commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in December, Priefer voiced his displeasure.

"Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you," Priefer said. "Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there's other ways of going about doing it, in my opinion."

"Whenever I was in the locker room or on the football field, I was focused entirely on football," Kluwe told the AP. "It was my one and only focus. When I left the locker room to go home, I lived my life."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.