Possibilities Seem Endless for Vedvik as Specialist Joins Vikings

EAGAN, Minn. — In last Thursday night’s preseason game between Baltimore and Jacksonville, Kaare Vedvik led the entire Ravens roster with 14 special teams snaps.

He was perfect on four field goal tries with a long of 55 yards, nailed a pair of extra points, booted a pair of 50-plus yard punts and was on the field for six kickoffs, one of which was an onside attempt.

Yes, Vedvik, who was acquired by the Vikings on Sunday in a trade, can do a little bit of everything on special teams.

“I’m an athlete. I come here and I can do both (punt and kick) or whatever I can do to contribute and whatever I can do to help this team win games and go to the Super Bowl,” Vedvik said Monday. “I love them both, have a passion for both. That’s my thing.”

But now that he is in a different shade of Purple, where does the 25-year-old fit into the special teams room in Minnesota?

To start, he is one of four specialists currently on the roster along with kicker Dan Bailey, punter Matt Wile and long snapper Austin Cutting. Veteran long snapper Kevin McDermott was released Sunday to keep the Vikings roster at 90 players.

But in the words of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, it’s too soon to make any projections or prognostications on who will do what when it’s time for Minnesota’s special teamers to hit the field in Week 1.

“Not sure yet. It’s the first day I’ve seen him, and I didn’t see him do anything today since he was on a different field. Can you give me a week?” Zimmer quipped when asked what position Vedvik will play. “The general plan is to look at him this week and then make a decision whether we look at him for another week, or we decide what to do.

“He got here [Sunday] night at 7:30 p.m.,” Zimmer added. “I met him, came out here to practice, and he was on a different field. It’s really hard to make a decision today.”

Zimmer did reveal he had done some research about Vedvik from his days in Baltimore when he chatted with former Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg, who retired in March and had been with Baltimore since 2008.

“I called Jerry Rosburg when there was a possibility this might happen because I wanted to find out about this kid,” Zimmer said. “Jerry Rosburg was the special teams coach in Baltimore, right? Good friend of mine.

“I asked him, ‘What is he? Is he a kicker? A punter? Kickoff guy?’ He just said, ‘He’s an NFL talent,’ ” Zimmer added. “So that’s kind of where it went from there. I still don’t know what he is, and I definitely won’t know today.”

The fact that Vedvik is on an NFL roster, and could end up playing in the regular season, is a feat in itself considering his background.

A native of Stavanger, Norway, Vedvik grew up playing soccer, hockey and track in his home country. But he became engrossed by American football when he watched the Super Bowl for the first time on television.

“I remember watching and thinking, ‘Wow, that looks amazing.’ Growing up, I was super passionate about sports and being active,” Vedvik said. “I just loved to compete and had a passion for it. I played soccer growing up mainly, and I played soccer and did hockey at some point. [Football was] a sport I’d love to try.”

Vedvik got his chance during his second year of high school, a time when the Norwegian school system pays for a year abroad in another country. The teenager moved to McPherson, Kansas, a town of roughly 13,000 people about an hour north of Wichita.

Because of his soccer background, coaches convinced Vedvik to be the team’s kicker. According to McPherson’s stats, he made all 28 extra points and hit his only field goal attempt, a 20-yard try. He also punted and handled kickoff duties.

Although Vedvik was new to the sport, he attracted attention at kicking camps around the country. That led to a collegiate career at Marshall University, where Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss played.

“Throughout the games in Kansas, they said I had a chance to play at a higher level,” Vedvik said. “At that point, after a couple conversations with [my host father], I made the choice to actually pursue it and actually play the sport and get a good education out of it.

“I attended several different kicking camps and tried to compete and beat out whoever the best guys were,” Vedvik added. “Throughout those efforts, that’s where Marshall University came in and they were interested and brought me in for an official visit.”

Vedvik redshirted in 2013 and played in one game the next two seasons. But he recorded 129 total punts as a junior and senior and hit 10 of 16 field goals in 2017 as a senior.

Once again, Vedvik was pulling double duty on special teams.

“My senior year, the starting field goal kicker on the team got injured, so the coach asked me if I could kick field goals,” Vedvik said. “Throughout the years, I’ve always been doing both in practice and always had fun doing everything. Just working at it. I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’

“It worked out pretty well,” Vedvik added.

That led him to Baltimore, where he signed as an undrafted free agent in the spring of 2018.

View images from the Vikings training camp practice on August 12 at TCO Performance Center.

Vedvik excelled with the Ravens, hitting eight of nine field goal attempts in the preseason, including a 56-yard try. But the specialist spent the entire 2018 season on the Non-Football Injury list after he was assaulted a week before the season opener.

Baltimore was trying to trade Vedvik at the time because the Ravens didn’t need a kicker or a punter. Kicker Justin Tucker, a three-time All-Pro, is the most accurate kicker in NFL history at 90.11 percent. And punter Sam Koch is entering his 14th season in Baltimore and was a Pro Bowler in 2015.

Vedvik said although he didn’t play in 2018, he improved as a player by watching Tucker and Koch at work.

“Being at the Ravens, it had been extremely helpful,” Vedvik added. “I was with two of the best at what they do — Justin Tucker and Sam Koch — every day, day-in and day-out, I studied them.

“They gave me advice, and I got to learn from the veterans to see the attention to detail that they had, which helped me have a more linear focus to what I have to get better at for myself,” Vedvik added. “That year [2018] was probably the year I saw the most progress as a specialist, definitely.”

Now Vedvik finds himself in Minnesota, where he could end up being the punter, the kicker, the kickoff specialist, the holder or neither.

He showed off his leg strength Monday by hitting 60- and 62-yard field goals from a tee with no defense rushing him, and said he will rely on his confidence to carry him forward with his new team.

“First of all, you have to belief in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, then I don’t think anyone else will, right?,” Vedvik said. “I believe in myself and what I’m capable of doing and that’s what I feed off of.

“When I step out there, for me, it’s about having fun. I go out there with a smile on my face and I love what I do,” Vedvik added. “Through that, I have fun. I think through having fun, you gain confidence. It’s a blast. I’m happy to be here.”

As for Zimmer, the head coach didn’t have an immediate answer for where Vedvik fits into the roster.

Zimmer voiced his support for Bailey but also added he has no issue with Vedvik handling all of the kicking duties by himself.

“Yeah, if he’s good enough. I don’t have a problem with that,” Zimmer said. “But I don’t know. Again, anything is a possibility at this point.

“Again, I’ve never seen him,” Zimmer later added. “I know his stats, I know what he did in the preseason. I know what he did at Marshall … I know all those things, but you have to get your eyes on the guy before you can say he can do everything. Might have him play safety, even outside linebacker? I don’t know.”

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