New Seahawks' kicker Blair Walsh brings a different look to the game than did his predecessor, Stephen Hauschka.
So yeah, things are going to be a little bit different with Blair Walsh as the Seahawks’ kicker than they were with Stephen Hauschka.
That became apparent Friday night in what was the first game at CenturyLink Field in which Hauschka wasn’t Seattle’s kicker in six years.
Walsh made two 52-yard field goals in the third quarter of Seattle’s eventual 20-13 preseason win, and after each pointed and jawed at the sidelines of the Minnesota Vikings.
Sure, there was a history — he had played for the Vikings from 2012 before being released last November and said he was inspired to react due to some verbal taunts he said he’d heard from Minnesota players and coaches (Walsh had earlier missed a 53-yarder that hit the crossbar).
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“They were giving him a hard time,’’ said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “He was just having a little fun with it. He’s a really good competitor. I like his mentality.”
Interestingly, Walsh had insisted a few days prior that facing the Vikings didn’t really mean anything.
“I have no ill will towards anybody over there,’’ Walsh had said. “Football is a business — I understand that. I am happy I got a shot here and I wouldn’t change a thing.’’
That Walsh had feelings of some sort toward the Vikings, though, seemed evident with his actions following his two third-quarter makes, much to the delight of his new teammates, some of whom — notably Richard Sherman — stormed off the bench to join and congratulate him.
It wasn’t the kind of thing the Seahawks would likely have seen with Hauschka, who could kick a game-winner and celebrate with the relative stoicism befitting the fact he initially went to college to be a dentist, raising an arm in the air and exchanging helmet pats with holder Jon Ryan with an ‘aw shucks, just doing my job’ demeanor.
Hauschka also ranked as among the taller Seahawks standing 6-4 and weighing 210 pounds.
Walsh, meanwhile, at 5-10 is officially shorter than all but one other player (running back Mike Davis is 5-9) and weighs less than any other player at 175.
“But he’s really strong, as you can see out here,’’ said holder Jon Ryan. “For a little guy he gets the ball up high and he gets it out far.’’
There is one way the Seahawks hope Walsh and Hauschka prove similar, however — experiencing a career revival in Seattle.
It may be easy to forget but Hauschka had been waived six times by five different teams in just over three years before signing with the Seahawks in September, 2011. Hauschka’s most significant role prior to his Seattle career came in 2008 and 2009 with the Ravens, who waived him in Nov., 2009 with a team press release at the time rather candidly stating that the decision came after he had missed “three consecutive high-pressure kicks.’’
After being waived three more times by three more teams following his time with Baltimore, Hauschka finally found a home in Seattle, making enough clutch kicks in six seasons to earn the nickname “Hausch-money.’’
So the Seahawks can be excused for thinking that maybe they can have success with another reclamation project, even if the most infamous of the misses that helped lead to Walsh’s release by the Vikings gave Seattle maybe its most unlikely playoff win over — a shanked 27-yarder in the final seconds that allowed Seattle to escape with a 10-9 wildcard playoff win in Jan., 2016.
“Hey, I came to the one team that actually probably likes me for it,’’ Walsh said this week with a laugh.
Walsh, of course, has known since the day he signed with the Seahawks that questions about his miss would follow him to Seattle. So did the Seahawks. But each side also understood it didn’t make sense to base a big-picture decision solely on one moment.
When the Seahawks realized that Hauschka was going to get the kinds of offers they didn’t think they could match — he eventually signed a four-year, $12.4 million deal with the Bills — they quickly snatched up Walsh, signing him to a one-year contract worth up to $1.1 million. Walsh said he had planned to make more visits but liked the Seahawks’ atmosphere and decided to sign before talking to any other teams.
Walsh said he doesn’t care that people bring up the missed wildcard playoff kick, while saying it hasn’t come up in the locker room.
“It doesn’t bother me that people talk about it or bring it up,’’ Walsh said. “It’s in the past. It’s a small part of it. It’s there. But it’s nothing to do with what I am doing today or what I am doing tomorrow.’’
Well, maybe not completely.
Walsh admits that after his Minnesota tenure ended suddenly last season following a few more untimely misses – he misfired on PATs in consecutive games prior to his release, one in a game the Vikings lost in overtime — he re-evaluated things a bit.
Walsh said he made a few minor tweaks to his kicking routine “to accentuate my abilities a little bit more’’ but said the biggest change came in his mentality.
Walsh said as his Minnesota career progressed he was “kind of beating a dead horse a little bit, overthinking it’’ and that he now is taking a “completely different approach’’ to kicking.
“I already care about what I do and I take it very seriously,’’ he said. “But I think what this place is helping me to do is open myself up and enjoy it more and realize that you play this game because you love it. And I do.’’
Walsh, in fact, was generally considered one of the top kickers in the nation at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Boca Raton, Fla. He then went to Georgia where he set an all-time NCAA record by making at least one field goal in 45 games.
Taken in the sixth round by Minnesota in 2012 he was an immediate hit setting an NFL record by hitting all 10 of his field goal attempts of 50 yards or longer and earning All-NFL First Team honors as a rookie.
“He’s a tremendous talent,’’ Carroll said when Walsh was signed.
Walsh agreed with the Seahawks that maybe all he needed was going to a place where he had a clean slate — the results so far are promising as Walsh has made 4-5 field goals (with the only miss from 53) and all eight of his extra point attempts.
“It’s not easy when you are constantly under the gun and it doesn’t work out,’’ he said of the end of his Minnesota career. “It’s been refreshing here. A new start.’’
One where he said he has a simple goal.
“Every day I am out here trying to prove them right,’’ he said. “Prove their decision right.’’