Cullen Loeffler, the longest-tenured Viking, will report to Minnesota State University, Mankato for his 12th training camp. It will be the first time he's competing for the long-snapping job he claimed as an undrafted rookie in 2004. The Vikings brought in third-year pro Kevin McDermott via free agency to vie for the post. They'll be joined by 2012 sixth-round pick, kicker Blair Walsh, and 2013 fifth-rounder, punter Jeff Locke, who appear to be unopposed.
Specialists are a tight-knit group, rarely seen without the other at practices, and that's continued during the offseason workout program. It's likely that 53-man limitations will keep the lyrics as, "We're the three best friends that anybody could have," — at least on the roster — for this wolf pack.
Total going to camp: 4 (not including returners)
Total on 2014 opening day roster: 3
Average age: 27
Most experienced: Cullen Loeffler (12th season; 171 games played)
Position coaches: Mike Priefer, assisted by Ryan Ficken
"Extra" extra point
This position group could be affected by a rule change for 2015 that will spot the line of scrimmage for point after touchdown kicks at the 15-yard line and create a 33-yard attempt that is 13 yards farther than PATs in years past. Mike Wobschall and I debated ways this rule change might impact games in our first ever "Two-Point Conversations," but 52.7 percent of Vikings fans **voted** **here** that it would have "not much" of an impact.
The team that has just scored a touchdown will have the option of taking the ball at the 2 for a run or pass on a two-point conversion, and the defense will have the opportunity to return a fumble or interception or a blocked or short kick attempt to the opposite end zone for two points.
As for the Vikings, Walsh said he **likes the change**. He's four-for-four on 33-yard field goals in his career, including all three last season.
View some of the best images of the Vikings special teamers from the offseason program.
Longer kicks? No prob
Since entering the league in 2012, Walsh is tied for the league-lead with 17 field goals of 50 or more yards, which is also a franchise record that he looks to expand this season with help from his long snapper and holder, Locke.
Walsh's strong leg, strategy and hustle by the kick coverage unit helped the Vikings rank fourth in the NFL in average kickoff return yards allowed (20.7) in 2014.
Punt coverage, too
It can be frustrating for fans when the punt team has to take the field (because an offensive possession didn't end with the ultimate goal), but sometimes that's the best option to flip field position. Locke's efforts and more dedication by players on the punt coverage unit helped the Vikings rank fifth in the NFL in average punt return yards allowed (6.5) in 2014.
(Long) snap decision
As mentioned, Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer will evaluate between Loeffler and McDermott. Priefer said he thinks both players will know who won the job by the time a decision is made. One thing is sure, both will compete fully and admirably.
Loeffler's career has spanned all or parts of the tenures of four of the nine head coaches in Vikings history, and his 171 games played is tied for 17th in franchise history with former defensive tackle Kevin Williams and Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause.
McDermott teamed with Locke at UCLA from 2008-12 before appearing in all 16 games of 2013 with San Francisco after joining the 49ers as an undrafted free agent. He opened 2014 on Denver's practice squad before joining Baltimore for the final 10 weeks and appeared in seven games with the Ravens last season.
We didn't include Vikings return specialists in the calculation above since they also play other positions, but it's worth mentioning that Cordarrelle Patterson (kickoffs) and Marcus Sherels (punt returners) have been two of the best in the biz and will be pushed during camp and the preseason by a few other players, if for no other reason than to make sure the Vikings have depth in these important roles.