Ryan Longwell has been to the open free-agent market before in his 14-year NFL career, the last time being when the Vikings signed him away from the Green Bay Packers.
That was five years ago, and now 36-year-old kicker might have to kick the tires on different teams once again. Still, Longwell isn't ruling out a potential return to the Vikings, or even the Packers. Appearing on WAUK-AM's "Green and Gold Today" show in Milwaukee, Longwell said he's learned to never say never in the NFL.
"We had a blast in Minnesota; we wouldn't mind going back," Longwell said. "But you never know what's around the corner and where we're going to need to play. It's kind of been one of those things that's kind of been hanging over us all offseason with the lcokout. Free agency will kick in, hopefully some time."
In his five seasons with the Vikings, Longwell has proved to be one of the franchise's most accurate kickers, connecting on 17 of 18 attempts last year. He is currently sixth on the team's all-time scoring list with 522 points and 15th all-time in the NFL with 1,576 points.
Asked about his longevity, he wasn't about to put a cap on the number of years he'd still like to play.
"I've been very blessed to be healthy. I've played every game for 14 years so far. Knock on wood, I've been able to last," he said. "I still feel like I'm very strong and very accurate and reliable. I feel like I'm a definite asset in the locker room with what we've been through in Minnesota the last few years. It's one of those things where I don't want to put an end time on it, but I don't want to get my head too far out over my skis and kind of say, ‘Yeah, I'd love to play five more or seven more or play 20-some years.' I've always approached it, ever since I came in with [Brett] Conway there, I've always approached it one week at a time, one game at a time, and it's worked so well for me thus far for this many years that I'd be hesitant to switch up that approach."
The Vikings also seem interested in Longwell returning, despite a change in their special teams coordinator for the second time in Longwell's five years. He started with Paul Ferraro as his coordinator, had two years with Brian Murphy, and now the Vikings have Mike Priefer as the new coordinator of special teams.
Earlier this year, Priefer said he thinks the new kickoff rule, which move the starting spot up five yards, will help extend Longwell's career.
"The great thing about Ryan is he's a wily veteran. He's got a lot of what I call tricks in his bag," Priefer said. "He's going to have opportunities to place kickoffs where he wants them – higher, shorter, deeper, not as high with the hang time. So we'll be able to be creative, do some things on kickoffs. Hopefully every now and then we get a few touchbacks. I think it will be good for Ryan."
Whatever happens, Longwell remains appreciative of his time in the NFL.
"I'm getting in shape and I'm in pretty good shape getting ready for year 15 in the NFL. I still certainly pinch myself every single day wondering why [former Packers general manager] Ron Wolf took a chance on me," Longwell said. "Fifteen years later, here we go. It's pretty humbling. We've enjoyed it."
He is getting set for a one-week family vacation to a dude ranch in Colorado, taking advantage of a lockout that is keeping his future uncertain.
"The lockout's been great. It's been really odd. Naturally, it's been frustrating at one level because maybe a Viking and then I am a free agent," he said. "My contract is up with the five-year deal I just played out with the Vikings. Part of us … we're really at peace with wherever we end up."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Kicker Ryan Longwell says he would like to return to the Vikings when the lockout ends, calling it …