Elling could be replaced if struggles continue

Originally Published: August 29, 2004
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

All-time leading scorer Gary Anderson can keep his kicking cleats in the closet and need not worry about turning on his answering machine every time he leaves the house.

Following a day of deliberation and a good night's sleep, Vikings coach Mike Tice, who earlier had hinted he might send out an SOS for Anderson, has changed his mind and will stick with struggling incumbent kicker Aaron Elling.

Aaron Elling
Kicker
Minnesota Vikings
Profile
2003 SEASON STATISTICS
FG Att PAT Att Pts Long
18 25 48 48 102 51

At least for now.

"I'm leaning toward sending Aaron out there [for the preseason finale], letting him get all the kicks, and see what happens," Tice said. "If he does fine, we'll just chalk it up to him having a bad week, and move on."

If Elling continues to struggle, he still could be replaced, although not by Anderson. After kicking around the notion of perhaps calling Anderson and trying to lure him out of retirement, Tice said he's decided against any kickers who have not already been in an NFL camp this summer.

That, of course, would eliminate Anderson, now into his third retirement. He holds the NFL record for points (2,346) and field goals (521).

The Vikings are keeping a keen eye on kicking competitions around the league. Among the potential candidates is 22-year veteran Morten Andersen, the second-leading scorer in league history; he's being challenged in Chiefs camp by former CFL kicker Lawrence Tynes. Texans kicker Todd Sievers, who probably will not oust Kris Brown, and the loser of the competition in Dallas between Matt Bryant and incumbent Billy Cundiff are other possibilities.

The Vikings could also trade for a more experienced kicker.

"It's obvious to all of us we can't keep going down this vein," Tice acknowledged after Friday night's 23-10 victory over San Francisco, a game in which Elling missed two field-goal attempts and an extra-point try.

The second-year veteran, who won a kicking competition last summer to earn his first NFL roster spot after bouncing around training camps for a couple of years, has converted only four of seven field goal tries in three preseason games. On Friday, he was wide right from 44 yards and wide left from 32. His only field-goal conversion was from 35 in the second quarter.

After converting 18 of 25 field goals and all 48 extra points last season, Elling struggled in camp and his problems have carried over into the preseason.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.