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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings special teams coach: Kickoffs will be safer, more exciting

By Matthew Coller

When the Minnesota Vikings begin their 2018 season on September 9 against the San Francisco 49ers, the opening kickoff will look a little different than in years past.

Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer, who was part of a committee to create new rules for kickoffs, said the league’s goal was to make the play safer without taking away the excitement level.

“They were willing to listen,” Priefer said. “We had some really good ideas. We had been working on that for about five or six weeks to get that proposal in. Pretty much everything in our proposal is what they went with. Our goal was to make it safer play. Our goal was to make it just as exciting play as it always has been. At the end of the day, we need less guys injured on that play. I think we can get there, too. I think if you teach blocking correctly, you teach taking on blocks correctly, you teach tackling correctly, you have a chance to keep guys healthier.”

Here is a visual recap of the new rules:

Two changes to the @NFL kickoff rules include:

-No running start from the kicking team
-No wedge blocks from the receiving team

See all changes in the graphic below.

— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) May 27, 2018

Kickoff returns have decreased significantly over the past decade. Last year’s leader had 38 returns. That’s down by more than 30 returns from the leader in 2008.

“We want to keep it around,” Priefer said. “We love the play. We think it’s a great play in our game. At the end of the day, I think we gave the owners and we gave the NFL, the league office what they wanted. They wanted a proposal that would make the play safer and was still going to make the play exciting and a part of our great game.”

Priefer also discussed two other topics worth watching throughout the offseason: First-round pick Mike Hughes’ work as a returner and the team’s kicking competition.

“Kickoffs, he is very comfortable, punts, I think he is comfortable or getting more comfortable,” Priefer said of Hughes. “We’ve worked with him a lot already starting in rookie minicamp starting earlier this month. Like any young player that comes in here, they don’t have the time in college to teach them a lot of the techniques that we have the time to teach them here. He’s been being taught stuff on how to track it correctly, how to catch it correctly. He’s got all the ability in the world. He is really starting to put it all together. He has a great opportunity to compete for that job as well.”

The Vikings surprisingly drafted a kicker in the fifth round despite Kai Forbath’s 88.7 percent field goal percentage over the past two years. Forbath and Daniel Carlson will jockey for position throughout OTAs, mandatory minicamp and training camp – though Mike Zimmer suggested if one kicker was far ahead of the other, the team could make a decision before the end of camp.

“I don’t want to rush the process,” Priefer said. “I think we need to do what is best for our football team, whether that is at the end of spring or end of training camp. I don’t make that final decision. At the end of the day, we will make the right one and hopefully the kicker that we keep will help us win a lot of games this year.”

The post Vikings special teams coach: Kickoffs will be safer, more exciting appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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