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Vikings Stability of Specialists Helps Amid 2020 Uncertainties

EAGAN, Minn. – Snap, hold, kick.

Amid plenty of uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season, the Vikings specialists aren't taking the smoothness of their operation for granted.

Punter Britton Colquitt and kicker Dan Bailey spoke with media members Monday via video conference, and each emphasized the benefit of continuity in an offseason that has been shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Bailey said it feels "really good" to be heading into training camp practice knowing Minnesota is set at all three specialist positions, including second-year long snapper Austin Cutting.

"There are always obviously a few things we can improve on, but … coming off a year where I felt like we all operated pretty well together definitely gives you confidence," Bailey said. "Normally we train in the spring and sync up even more, but having some success last year and Britton being a vet, Austin coming in and playing like a vet, gives me a ton of confidence.

"It's what you want, especially in circumstances like this," he added. "You want that confidence, that comfortability to be ready to go."

The spring and summer programming may have been truncated, but Colquitt last year didn't even meet Bailey and Cutting until just before the regular season.

"I was just the new kid on the block last year, which was not completely strange to me, but not totally familiar. It's a lot better," Colquitt said. "There's a whole different feel this year. Not just with the schedule … but being here is a different comfort level.

"It was like we'd never left," he later added. "We've got a good operation going on already, so it feels good."

Bailey and Colquitt together account for 19 seasons of NFL experience. Both re-signed multiyear contracts with the Vikings this spring.

For the 35-year-old punter, inking a new deal created another level of stability not just for him but also for his wife, Nikki, and their four children who have come to love Minnesota over the past year.

"[For my wife], that's the biggest thing – some sense of security in a game, in a business, that has very little security," Colquitt said. "I'm not sitting here and saying, 'We've made it,' or 'we're just the most secure people ever,' but it's nice to know we're here for now and the Vikings appreciate what you do and are willing to show that in a contract, so it was great."

Bailey, Colquitt and Cutting each navigated an unprecedented offseason, including the cancellation of OTAs and minicamp, due to COVID-19.

Colquitt worked out in a field within a Florida rental community – and he had plenty of assistants at his disposal.

"I put my kids to work shagging balls and snapping to me and stuff like that," Colquitt laughed.

"The gym closed down that I was going to, so we got things like bands and [medicine] balls, and I was kind of creating things on this field that we live on. I probably looked like a crazy person, setting up this giant gym on this field – I had people kind of checking, like, 'What's this guy doing?' " he later explained. "But it was fun, and I was able to do it with my kids and with my family."

Bailey wasn't quite so lucky.

"Yeah, he's got a whole crew over there, so I'm sure that was a whole family event," he quipped. "I would have loved to have had that. That would have been nice."

At his home in Texas, Bailey struggled to find a consistent place to practice kicking but rolled with the punches.

"As soon as you'd get on a field somewhere, they'd shut it down and you had to find somewhere else," he explained. "So it was tough. There were a couple times I was literally just kicking in a field – like an actual field that had been mowed – but it worked out. Over time, things kind of evened out and you could find a couple places that were good to go."

Now that the trio is back together at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, they're looking forward to working with Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf and focusing on a regular season that is scheduled to kick off in just over a month.

Maalouf said it "feels pretty good" to be heading into the campaign with a well-oiled machine in Bailey, Colquitt and Cutting.

"We've already spent some time together wiping the cobwebs off," Maalouf said. "Those guys have done a really good job on their own throughout these COVID times, here and since we've been away from each other, of practicing their craft. You can see it. I've seen guys who haven't worked on it and guys who have, and these guys have definitely done that. Now it's a matter of keeping working on their continuity, their rhythm and timing together and hopefully take it to the next level this season."

The Vikings have carryover at kicker, punter and long snapper for the first time since 2015-16, and it's the first time they've held no competition at any of the positions since 2016.

In a year with so many questions, it feels good to have a plan.

"It just enables all of us — including the coaches, [Ryan Ficken] and [Maalouf] — to be able to say, 'We could start today.' We don't have to say, 'Well, if you're the guy…' It's probably easier for them and easier for us," Colquitt said. "It makes things transparent and enables us to do our job better and get to that part of it.

"In the past and in my whole career, I've competed a lot," he continued. "And there's a lot of good things that come out of competition, but there are things that kind of distract you from what you're really trying to do. I think it's going to be good for us, and we're going to look like a more polished group out there at an earlier stage of the season."