EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings kicker competition could be a close one.
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said that Kai Forbath and rookie Daniel Carlson each had a good spring and that he’s looking forward to seeing how training camp plays out between the two of them.
Priefer said it’s important to put Forbath and Carlson in pressure situations during team periods of practice and continue charting their field goal percentage while working with the holder and snapper during individual drills.
“Quite honestly, one’s got to be more consistent than the other. One’s got to do what we ask him to do on kickoffs better than the other,” Priefer told media members following Sunday morning’s walk-through.
Forbath, who signed with Minnesota midway through the 2016 season, made 32 of 38 field goal attempts in 2017, and he made three of four field goals attempted in the Divisional Round playoff game against the Saints, including a 53-yarder inside the 2-minute mark.
Carlson was a highly sought-after prospect coming out of Auburn, and the Vikings traded two sixth-round picks to the Jets in order to select the kicker in the fifth round (167th overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. Minnesota also received a seventh-round selection used on Devante Downs in the deal.
Priefer said that Carlson is “as advertised.”
“He’s very strong, he’s a very good kickoff guy,” Priefer said. “He’s got some work to do be a little more consistent with his field goals.”
Priefer added: “And I thought Kai had a tremendous spring. They were neck-and-neck all spring, and we’ll see what happens.”
Carlson spoke with media members after a practice early in training camp and said that he’s embracing the competition as well as high-pressure situations he’s placed in.
When asked about stepping on the field for a big kick, Carlson answered the question nonchalantly.
“You’ve gotta not let the moment get too big,” Carlson said. “We practice these kicks millions and millions of times on the practice field, and there’s no difference when there’s 11 guys rushing at you and 100,000 people watching, millions on TV – whatever it is, it’s the same. You’ve just got to knock it through the pipes every time.
“It’s exciting I got to do that a couple of times at Auburn, played in a bunch of big games, but I’m ready to take it to the next level,” Carlson said.
The native of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was asked about his ability to stay calm during those big moments, and said it’s been something he’s had to develop over the years.
Carlson grew up playing soccer and later transitioned to football during high school when a family friend approached him with the idea. He soon fell in love with the sport and, along with it, the expectations that accompany the position.
“If you want to be a top-level kicker, you’ve got to get used to it,” Carlson said. “I’ve missed some kicks, and I’ve made some big kicks in my career in college and high school and whatever else, and that’s all part of the learning experience. But I think now at this point, I’ve had a lot of experience in big games that I’ve learned to enjoy it, embrace it and hopefully be at my best when that time comes.”
Whether Forbath and Carlson are kicking a field goal during situational team work or off on the side field, Priefer tells both of them to consider every attempt a game kick.
Both players understand they’re in competition with one another, but they also have worked well together and are handling what could be a difficult situation with class.
Priefer praised their professionalism.
“They like each other. I think they would be friends off the field; they’re both good people,” Priefer said. “They understand it’s a business; they understand we’re only going to keep one kicker.
“I’m proud of both of them for the way they’ve worked up until this point,” he added.
After the two worked together all spring, Carlson reported to training camp with other rookies and select players on Aug. 24, and Forbath re-joined him for the first full-team practice on Saturday.
Carlson said he has a great relationship with the veteran kicker.
“We’ve gotten the opportunity to kind of feed off each other,” Carlson said. “But obviously it’s also a competition, so there’s that side of it too, where we’re trying to push each other. It’s gone great so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing over the rest of camp.”