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Blair Walsh Starts 2016 on Right Foot with Confidence

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Blair Walsh is packing plenty of confidence for Minnesota's upcoming trip to Seattle for the Vikings second preseason game Thursday.

"It's a completely new season," said Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer. "I can understand why people would think that [there would be nerves], but at the end of the day, we've long since moved on.

"Blair's had a phenomenal camp," Priefer continued. "He's stronger than he was a year ago. He's kicking off well, he's kicking field goals well. I'm excited about this year."

Walsh had a successful night against the Bengals Friday, making both PATs and a 51-yard field goal.  

"Any time you go out there and have a mistake-free game and just do what you know how to do and make kicks, it helps," Walsh said. "I didn't expect anything less. I'm confident in my abilities and myself and what I've shown so far in camp, and it's nice to show that in a game. You've got to use that as a positive and move forward."

In 2015, Walsh led the NFL with 34 made field goals and recorded 135 points, the third-highest point total in Vikings history.

This season, one of the nine NFL rule changes will be specifically pertinent to Walsh: placement of the ball at the 25-yard line for a touchback after kickoffs or free kicks after safeties. The previous placement was the 20-yard line.

Priefer had Walsh **experiment a bit with kickoffs in Cincinnati**, and there was a mixed bag of results.

"We're going to continue to experiment – the different type of kicks, how deep we want it, how much hang time we want," Priefer said.

On Walsh's final kickoff Friday night, he sailed the ball outside the numbers to the 3-yard line, and the Vikings pinned the Bengals at their own 13-yard line.

"Those are the types of things that Blair can do to help our kickoff team, to help the field position," Priefer said. "It's going to be based on who we're playing, the time of the game, the situation of the game."

Walsh said he thinks the new rule could affect the return schemes of teams.

"Guys are going to start dropping the ball before the goal line, which is forcing the returner to take it anyway," Walsh said. "I think you're going to end up with the same results."

A second change for the Vikings in 2016 is moving indoors to U.S. Bank Stadium. After back-to-back outdoor seasons at the University of Minnesota, Walsh is looking forward to kicking sans Minnesota elements. Walsh, along with long snapper Kevin McDermott and punter Jeff Locke, have already filed a couple of sessions in their new home.

Walsh said the venue is fantastic.

"I'll probably get down there sometime next week during the 10-day break before our [Aug. 28] preseason game [against the Chargers]," Walsh said. "It's been a good experience the times I've been there.

"Domes are fun to kick in. Home stadiums are fun to kick in," Walsh added.

Walsh had an opportunity to kick at U.S. Bank Stadium while the massive, pivoting glass doors were open and while they were closed. He said having the doors open didn't seem to create any issues, but it will be interesting to see if there's any difference as the weather cools off.

Heading into the 2016 season, Walsh isn't the only one with confidence in himself.

"[Blair's] done really well," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "He's been kicking the ball really well in practice, and obviously, he hit the 51-yarder the other night.

"He said, 'Hey, thanks for letting me kick it,' " Zimmer said. "I would have let him kick it anyway."

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