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Punting indoors has Vikings' Locke back on track

MINNEAPOLIS -- To keep his job with the Minnesota Vikings, Jeff Locke knew he needed to punt better this season. Locke ranked 30th in the NFL last season with a net average of 37.8 yards per punt, well below the 40 yards special teams coach Mike ...

Dec 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings punter Jeff Locke (18) punts in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings punter Jeff Locke (18) punts in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - To keep his job with the Minnesota Vikings, Jeff Locke knew he needed to punt better this season.

Locke ranked 30th in the NFL last season with a net average of 37.8 yards per punt, well below the 40 yards special teams coach Mike Priefer wants to see.

Through four games this season, Locke has exceeded Priefer's expectations, punting closer to the way the Vikings hoped when they drafted him in the fifth round in 2013.

"I think I'm probably the most consistent I've been over my career," Locke said.

He ranks second in the NFL in punts downed inside the 20 with 12, and his net average punt is 40.6 yards, 15th best in the NFL.

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"He's done a very good job working on his drop, working on his leg swing, being more consistent with his line," Priefer said. "He's worked harder now. ... Not that he wasn't a hard worker before, but he's working harder now on the little things that are helping him be more successful. He's starting to believe that's why he's successful. I've been telling him for four years that's what it's going to take. He's responded well this year."

It probably didn't help Locke that he was punting eight games a year outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium the past two seasons, often in less-than-ideal weather.

Now that the Vikings have moved back indoors, to U.S. Bank Stadium, Locke said punts don't have to be perfect to work well.

"The margin for error on my punts gets a little bigger," Locke said. "Whereas at TCF (Bank Stadium) in extreme cold or extreme winds, (if you're) the slightest bit off in technique, you can't really save it. Right now I feel like I'm really comfortable in that stadium, and I want to keep it going."

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGSFOOTBALL
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