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|Daniel Carlson's career-best field goal at Auburn was 56 yards. His confidence range indoors reaches 65. During pre-draft training in the high altitude of his home state Colorado Dion Dawkins Jersey , he said, even a 75-yard kick was makeable. The Minnesota Vikings were so enamored with that strong leg they used a fifth-round pick on the 6-foot-5, 213-pound Carlson, a bold enough move to suggest he'll be the place kicker this season and not incumbent Kai Forbath.
No matter how big of a boom Carlson delivers on the ball, though, what matters the most is how accurate he can be from those less-impressive and more-critical distances. The shorter kicks that the Vikings have seen missed too many times over the past five years.
"I'm a 6-foot-5 kicker, which is pretty rare. That does help having those long levers to hopefully get a couple touchbacks and some longer kicks here and there," Carlson said. "But at the end of the day it's the kicks inside of 50 that really are going to make or break a season or make or break you."
The Vikings re-signed Forbath in March. In 25 games since he replaced the struggling Blair Walsh, Forbath has missed eight extra points. He also pulled a couple of 39-yard field goals wide in 2017. Though he came through down the stretch with several important makes, including three field goals in the playoff game win over New Orleans, Forbath clearly didn't gain the full trust of the coaching staff and front office.
"The whole objective right now at this point is to create the most competitive 90-man roster that you can, regardless of position," general manager Rick Spielman said last weekend after making Carlson the 167th overall selection.
When the Vikings drafted Walsh in the sixth round in 2012, they released reliable incumbent Ryan Longwell the day after the rookie minicamp was complete. The same scenario played out in 2013 with punter Jeff Locke, a fifth-round pick http://www.washingtonredskinsteamonline.com/ryan-anderson-jersey , and his outspoken predecessor, Chris Kluwe. For now, the Vikings have said they'll keep the competition open. Still, a fifth-rounder is a high price for a specialist.
"Kai's done really good this spring," coach Mike Zimmer said. "So we're just going to let them go out there and kick."
Carlson made all 198 extra points he attempted in college, albeit from 20 yards and not 33 yards, to set an SEC record. He went 92 for 114 on field goals. Factor in a strong performance at the Senior Bowl in January, and the Vikings were interested. They sent special teams coordinator Mike Priefer to Auburn for one of five private workouts Carlson conducted after the scouting combine, and Carlson and Priefer immediately hit it off.
Carlson was one of the eight draftees among 66 players assembled by the Vikings for workouts this weekend, including 31 players invited on a tryout basis.
The 17 college free agents signed earlier this week included cornerback Holton Hill from Texas and linebacker Hercules Mata'afa of Washington State, considered two of the top undrafted players. Among the unsigned prospects aiming to follow the lead of Marcus Sherels in 2010 and Adam Thielen in 2013, as tryout players who earned a contract after the rookie minicamp and eventually made the team, are safety Mackenro Alexander of Iowa State, the twin brother of Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander; Northern Illinois wide receiver Chad Beebe, the son of former Buffalo Bills standout Don Beebe; and quarterback Matt Linehan from Idaho O. J. Simpson Jersey , the son of former Vikings and current Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
None of these players, even first-round cornerback Mike Hughes, carry the potential to impact the Vikings in 2018 as much as Carlson.
"I knew what I was coming into, and I'm excited to get to work," said Carlson, a three-time Lou Groza Award finalist and the SEC special teams player of the year for the last two seasons. "Hopefully, I'll prove to these coaches and the rest of this team that I deserve to be here."
Make those high-pressure kicks, and they'll quickly develop that respect.
"You kind of figure it out with a little maturity and handling those big moments," Carlson said, "but I think as a kicker that's what we're supposed to live for."
The Arizona Cardinals have their star running back but are without their general manager as they open their first training camp under new coach Steve Wilks. Running back David Johnson returned to the fold this week after sitting out mandatory minicamp in a contract dispute.
"It means a lot" to have Johnson back, Wilks said after players reported Friday. "We talked about from day one that he is a major part of what we're doing. I'm glad to see him back. He came back last Sunday on the 22nd very focused, very committed. He's in shape and looking good and I'm expecting some great things out of him this year."
The team added three players the past two days, despite the absence of general manager Steve Keim, who was suspended for five weeks and fined $200,000 by the team following his July 4 DUI arrest.
Cardinals President Michael Bidwill doesn't often speak to the media but he took the opportunity to do so after the players reported and went through their conditioning test.
Bidwill said that Akiem Hicks Jersey , as far as he knew, it was the largest penalty ever for a driving under the influence incident by someone connected to the NFL.
"I came down hard on him and he knew that was going to be the case in the early conversations (after the arrest)," Bidwill said. "I think it's important for everybody now in this day and age there's no excuse to drink and drive. We have Lyft, we have Uber, and there are consequences for the person to be arrested. People can be hurt or killed."
Bidwill has stepped in to take a more active role and said that Keim and his team have been together so long that it's easy to determine what the general manager's position would be if he were there, although no contact with the GM is allowed.
The team signed safety Tre Boston to a one-year deal Friday and added defensive ends Arthur Moats and Jacquies Smith on one-year contracts on Thursday.
"We have taken the philosophy that in his absence we are going to try to make the kind of decisions Steve Keim would make," Bidwill said.
Quarterback Sam Bradford was excused from Friday's run test but is expected to be a full participant, as the No. 1 quarterback, when workouts begin Saturday. Bradford was brought along slowly in offseason workouts as he works his way back from a knee injury that wiped out nearly all of his season a year ago.
Rookie Josh Rosen has been praised for his offseason work and will be competing with Mike Glennon for the backup job.
Johnson led the NFL in yards from scrimmage two seasons ago but fractured his left wrist in last year's opener and missed the rest of the season. As his representatives and the Cardinals talk about a contract, Johnson decided to come to camp rather than continue the holdout that began in minicamp.
"I wanted to be with the team at the start of camp," Johnson said. "I wanted to bounce back from last year, the injury."
Johnson said he doesn't know how close the parties are to a contract agreement and is leaving it to his agents to deal with. Bidwill said it is possible for the Cardinals and Johnson to reach an agreement despite Keim's absence.
Los Angeles Rams star running back Todd Gurley just signed a four-year extension that guarantees him $45 million.
"My biggest thing is I was proud for him," Johnson said. "I trained with Gurley coming out of college and it was cool to see him get what he deserves. Not only him, but to see Saquon (Barkley) get his deal. It's just good to see running backs get deals."
Boston came back to the Cardinals after criticizing the team's initial offer following a visit earlier in the free agent period. He agreed to a $1.5 million contract that can reach $3 million with incentives, far less than he expected to get when he entered free agency after a strong season last year with the LA Chargers.
Boston set career highs last year with 79 tackles Logan Thomas Jersey , five interceptions and seven passes defensed. He figures another year like that will get him the money he already believes he deserves.
"I can't get paid on the sidelines. I can't get paid at home," he said,. "This year you've just got to get back to the roots, get back to who I was last year. Two times in a row, they can't deny it."
Boston played four years for Carolina with Wilks as the defensive backs coach and joked that the players called the coach Denzel Washington because of the way he resembles the actor.
"A great coach, one of my favorite coaches," Boston said. "It reminds me of Denzel Washington, the way he coaches. That was our joke back in Carolina, man. But he's a great coach. He has a vision, a laser-like focus, somebody who motivates you to be better. You don't want to let him down."
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