UPDATED: Mike Zimmer Works Out Kickers But Hangs On To Walsh

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UPDATE: After working out six kickers on Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings decided to retain Blair Walsh at least through the club’s Week 10 game at Washington. Head coach Mike Zimmer said the team would continue to evaluate the position moving forward.

Having watched Blair Walsh miss seven kicks through the team’s first eight games, the Minnesota Vikings may be contemplating a change at the placekicker position.

Walsh’s early issues this season – five misses through four games – were masked by a 5-0 start to the season, but the foibles of the fifth-year vet burned the Vikings in Sunday’s loss against Detroit as he missed a game-tying extra point wide right and had a go-ahead field goal blocked that, in all likelihood, was headed wide left anyway.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Monday morning that Minnesota was working out kickers to potentially vie for Walsh’s job, and head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed this during a radio interview with KFAN later in the day but would not reveal any names.

WCCO’s David McCoy narrowed down the options with an additional report.

Zimmer said after the game Sunday that he wouldn’t make any kneejerk evaluations, though he did admit that Walsh’s struggles played a part in his decision to go for it on 4th and 1 inside the 10-yard line, which the Vikings did not convert. He also added on Monday that Walsh was instructed to kick the ball between the 10-yard line and the 5-yard line on a kickoff with 23 seconds to go. He ended up booting it five yards deep into the end zone, allowing the Lions to bring the ball out to the 25-yard line with no time running off the clock.

When asked if Walsh could still be a successful kicker in Minnesota this year, Zimmer replied, “I think Blair can be a successful kicker, yes.”

Concerning the three kickers in McCoy’s report, all are at different stages of their career.

Shayne Graham is a 38-year-old journeyman with 324 career field goal attempts and an 85 percent success rate. He made 19 of 21 kicks in limited time with Atlanta last year, notching all eight of his extra point attempts and missing two kicks between 40 and 49 yards. If the Vikings are looking for an 8-game stopgap who’s been around the block, Graham might be a nice option, though he may not provide great long distance acumen as the Vikings saw Sunday from Detroit’s Matt Prater. Graham is just 17 of 32 in his career from 50 yards and beyond.

Garrett Hartley infamously beat the Vikings in the 2009 NFC Championship with a 40-yard field goal. He is now 30 years old and hasn’t kicked since 2014 when he spent two games with Cleveland. Hartley lost favor in New Orleans in 2013 when he went 22 of 30 in his first 14 games and was, ironically, replaced by Graham.

Randy Bullock is 26 years old and spent one week with the New York Giants this season as Josh Brown served a one-game suspension. Bullock didn’t attempt a field goal but missed one of three extra points in that game against Dallas. Previously in his career, he served three-plus years with the Houston Texans, making just over 80 percent of his kicks.

Walsh said after Sunday’s loss that he hopes the team will stand behind him through his scuffles. “I’ve been in this league long enough,” Walsh said. “I’ve had success, but I’m in a place where I’ve got to make kicks, and I know that. I need to be there for the team, that’s really what it comes down to.”

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