Young Kicker Walsh Meets Great Kicker Hanson This Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 27, 2012 – 4:54 pm

Viking Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer has had a great deal of success in his brief time working with rookie K Blair Walsh. Through three regular season games, Walsh is a perfect 7 of 7 on FG tries and his 15 touchbacks this year are already approaching the Vikings total (19) from all of last season.

Walsh has made routine kicks – he’s 3 of 3 from within 39 yards. Walsh has made long kicks – he’s the first kicker in franchise history to have a FG of 50+ yards in 3 consecutive games.  And Walsh has made clutch kicks – a 55-yarder to send the game into overtime and a 38-yarder to win the game in overtime against Jacksonville in Week 1.

Things are definitely looking up for Walsh in his young career. But how great can Walsh be? We don’t know, yet. The Vikings 6th-round kicker has only played in 3 games. But the Vikings opponent this week – the Detroit Lions – have a kicker on their roster whom Walsh should admire – Jason Hanson.

Priefer himself pointed this out, paying perhaps the highest compliment possible to a NFL player.

“Nothing he does any more surprises me,” Priefer said. “He’s kind of like a Hall of Fame-type guy to me. I know they haven’t had a lot of great teams in the past there. He’s been on a few good ones and obviously, lately, very good. But to me, he’s a Hall of Fame-type performer.”

Hanson, who turned 42 in June, is now in his 21st season and is the Lions all-time scoring leader with 2,053 points. He is only the sixth player in NFL history to connect on 400 career field goals and the eighth to make 600 PATs. With a 50-yarder vs. San Diego in December of 2011, Hanson became the first player in NFL history with 50 FGs of 50+ yards. He holds the NFL record for the most games played by one player with one team (310), and he is the first player in NFL history to play 300 games with one franchise.

The superlatives on Hanson could go on and on. Even so, Hanson managed to do something last week that even he, in 20+ NFL seasons, had only done 12 times before – he punted. Ben Graham, who was the Lions punter, was injured during last week’s game and was forced out of action. The Lions called on Hanson to fill in, and he stepped up to the challenge.

“He’s amazing,” Priefer said. “What an athlete, too. To come in and punt the ball like he did last week with those three punts. And I read somewhere he didn’t think they were good punts. I thought they were outstanding punts. They were high, short, really un-returnable, fair catch balls, and had one inside the 20.”

Vikings fans should be excited about their young kicker and the success he’s had through three games. And while it’s too early to start comparing him to all-time greats or even current solid professionals, it is exciting to see what Walsh is doing when you consider the kind contributions Hanson has given to the Lions over the course of two decades.

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Three Offensive Starters Return To Practice For Lions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 27, 2012 – 12:46 pm

The Detroit Lions got some good news on Thursday as they continued preparations for Sunday’s game against the Vikings. QB Matthew Stafford and two other offensive starters returned to practice after sitting out on Wednesday.

Stafford had been dealing with a hip injury before last week, but he aggravated the during Sunday’s loss in Tennessee and wasn’t able to finish the game. He sat out of practice on Wednesday, leaving some to wonder if he’d be available for the game this weekend. As we said earlier on Thursday, though, Stafford has a reputation for playing through pain and the Vikings were preparing for him to start.

“Yeah, it was good,” Lions Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan said, according to Tim Twentyman of the team’s website. “He got a lot of work in. Jim (Schwartz) can give you a status update today. But, he was out there and I think he feels a lot better.”

Two other offensive starters who also sat out on Wednesday returned to practice on Thursday. WR Titus Young (knee), an important part of the Lions #1-ranked passing offense, was back on the field and so too was TE Tony Scheffler (calf). Scheffler missed last week’s game because of the calf injury. Brandon Pettigrew and Scheffler are both listed as starting TEs on the team’s website depth chart.

The Lions didn’t get the same kind of good injury news with their defense on Thursday. Twentyman reported that S Louis Delmas (knee), DT Corey Williams (knee) and LB Travis Lewis (quad) all were not practicing. Furthermore, the Lions later announced that Williams, a starter along with N’Damukong Suh in the middle of Detroit’s stout defensive line, underwent knee surgery and will be unavailable for Sunday’s game.

We’ll have more on that as well as plenty of Vikings updates from practice later today, so stay tuned.

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Vikings Expect Lions QB Stafford To Start Despite Injury

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 27, 2012 – 6:23 am

An injury prevented Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford from finishing last week’s game against the Tennessee Titans, and that has some wondering whether Stafford will start this week’s game against the Vikings.

Stafford left the Tennessee game with what was described as a strained leg muscle, according to the Detroit Free Press’s Dave Birkett. On Wednesday, Stafford did not participate in Detroit’s practice and he was listed on the injury report with a “hamstring” designation. But in his report, Birkett also noted that there’s been ambiguity about what exactly is bothering Stafford – some have referenced a hip, others the hamstring, and then last week’s in-game announcement was “strained leg muscle.”

While there may be ambiguity about what is holding Stafford back for the moment, the Vikings have clarity about what they expect on Sunday at Ford Field.

“We’ll prepare as if he is going to start,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “We’ll, of course, look at tape on Shaun Hill as well, but yeah, we’re expecting Stafford to be the starter and then we’ll have to adjust if it’s Shaun Hill.”

The Vikings are taking the prudent course of action in assuming Stafford will play. Stafford has dealt with injuries at various points in his career, but he has a reputation for being able to play – and play well – through pain and injury. Stafford said on Wednesday that he feels “better today than I did on Sunday” and that it’s taking it “day-by-day.”

In 4 career games against the Vikings, Stafford has completed 63.5% of his passes and averages 245.3 yards per game with 6 TDs and 2 INTs.

As Frazier mentioned, if Stafford is unable to play it will be Hill who replaces him. Hill went undrafted out of Maryland in 2002 and made his NFL debut with the Vikings. He played in Minnesota through 2005, and has also spent time with the San Francisco 49ers (2006-09) and now the Lions. For his career, Hill has completed 61.9% of his passes and has a 41-23 TD-INT ratio.


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