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Vikings Roundup, 8/24: Torch Passed from Loeffler to McDermott

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The black Ford pickup has Texas license plates on its front and back, the origin of the driver's story and his pending destination.

The hands about to wrap around a leather-clad steering wheel for a drive of more than 1,100 miles have gripped a pigskin for 11-plus seasons in Minnesota, during which miles were measured in increments of eight yards (to a holder) and 14 yards (to a punter) at a time.

The eyes of the driver, behind a pair of shades, have seen a lot. His ears have listened to four of the nine head coaches in Vikings history.

Cullen Loeffler's voice, still Texas-toned but perhaps less so than when he first arrived in Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2004, communicated the news to Kevin McDermott Sunday.

When Loeffler called to congratulate the third-year pro on winning the Vikings long snapper job, he told McDermott it was his turn to carry the torch and reminded him of the importance of being a good guy while doing so.

McDermott told reporters Monday that he learned from Loeffler, appreciated the call and will continue to have a high degree of respect for the NFL veteran.

"At the end of the day, (Vikings coaches) made the decision, but I'm very honored to still be here," McDermott said. "I think I showed I have the talent to play in the NFL. It was up to them to make that decision, but Cullen and I did our best, and I wish nothing but the best from him.

"He's a pro's pro. I ended up finding out I made the team because Cullen called to congratulate me," McDermott continued. "That just speaks volumes about the guy. He's a really special guy. I've learned a lot from him. He's been here for so long and he's meant a lot to this organization, so it means a lot for him to call me and congratulate me."

The Vikings announced the release of Loeffler on Monday. He played in 171 games (tied with Hall of Famer Paul Krause and Kevin Williams for 17th all-time in Vikings history) for Mike Tice, Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier and Mike Zimmer. An undrafted free agent out of Texas in 2004, Loeffler only missed five games at the end of the 2011 season because of injury.

"My entire time has been special. It's been great," Loeffler said. "I'm thankful for Coaches Tice, Childress, Frazier and Zimmer for giving me the opportunity to play that long. I know it's always hard as a coach coming in and inheriting guys. Childress, Frazier and Zimmer embraced me, and I appreciate it and obviously tried to work hard for them."

Loeffler snapped 10 of the 11 longest field goals in Vikings history, and four of the franchise's six longest game-winning kicks, as well as the two most-recent fake punts in franchise history (in 2004 and last season against the Bears). Trickery aside, Loeffler was named to the USA Football All-Fundamentals Team in 2011 and 2014.

View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the Aug. 22 preseason game against Oakland.

McDermott has played in 23 regular season games, including 16 with San Francisco in 2013 after joining the 49ers as an undrafted rookie out of UCLA. McDermott played in seven games with Baltimore in 2014 and signed with the Vikings in April. Like Loeffler, McDermott's rookie season included a trip to the postseason, with him helping San Francisco make the NFC Championship after the 2013 season.

McDermott teamed with Vikings punter Jeff Locke collegiately and was the Vikings punter's primary long snapper from 2011-12.

The Vikings had rotated between Loeffler and McDermott during the offseason program, training camp and in their first three preseason games. Minnesota has two more left (at Dallas Saturday; at Tennessee, Sept. 3) in which Locke and kicker Blair Walsh can develop their rhythm before opening the regular season at San Francisco.

When Loeffler stopped by Winter Park to turn in his playbook Monday, senior administrators and less-seasoned staff greeted him with handshakes — even hugs — and words of admiration and inspiration.

Before the pickup rolled out of the parking lot and the rearview mirror took shades of Longhorns burnt orange mixed with Vikings purple, he wished McDermott the best and said he was pleased to see an exciting future ahead for the organization.

"From the time I was young, I was just, whatever I did and wherever I went, I always wanted to leave it in better condition than I found it in," Loeffler said. "Even though (leaving) wasn't by my choice, I feel like I was able to do that here. The way the organization has progressed over the years, and with the new stadium coming about, things are just going to continue to get even better."

Pile at the pylon: The Vikings had two interceptions — by newcomers Brian Peters and Josh Thomas — against the Raiders and now have four through three preseason games. The 21-yard return by Peters nearly became the Vikings first defensive score of the preseason, but he was knocked out just shy of the goal line. It was an exciting play for the former CFL and AFL player who wound up at the bottom of a pile after reaching for the pylon.

"Everybody was all hyped up. I was just trying to get up," Peters said. "I had a few big bodies lying on top of me, but a cool experience, an awesome play. I was in the right place at the right time. Turnovers are big plays, being in the right position and doing your job and being the right position to make that play helped me out too."

It was the second INT of the preseason for Peters, who joined the Vikings as a free agent this offseason.

"I've constantly grown at the position," Peters said. "It's different than the CFL game, but I'm continuing to progress, and each day, I'm working on cleaning up one thing after another and working on my laundry list. Becoming more consistent is really my goal."

Barr review: Anthony Barr's snaps against the Raiders on Saturday were his first against an opponent since Nov. 30, 2014. Zimmer said Barr is adjusting back to game tempo that can't be simulated in practice. 

"There's a couple times when he didn't flash like he normally flashes, but it's his first time," Zimmer said, before adding Barr is fine physically. "It's just the extra burst that you need to have during games."

Barr's limited snaps included one tackle and a pass breakup at the line of scrimmage.

Practice notes: The Vikings continued to implement a triumvirate at middle linebacker of Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole and Eric Kendricks. Cole started the first two preseason games, and Kendricks started against Oakland so that Vikings coaches could evaluate the second-rounder against an opponent's first team. Zimmer declined to state the plan for Dallas. … John Sullivan, Antone Exum, Carter Bykowski, MyCole Pruitt and Shamar Stephen did not practice. Zimmer, when asked if there's a chance Bykowski returns this season, said "I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see what we end up doing with that. Sometimes these things as it goes you figure it out. I've been told, obviously, what they think it is, but we haven't made any decisions for sure yet."

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