Vikings kicker Greg Joseph appeared on a Zoom call with the media Monday wearing a baseball cap that read, “Kindness. Pass it on.” His teammates and head coach are adhering to that message.
Joseph was wide right with his a 37-yard field goal on the final play of Sunday’s 34-33 loss at Arizona. A day after the defeat, Mike Zimmer had grown weary of talking about the play.
“Lots of kickers miss field goals,” Zimmer said. “Let’s give the kid a break, OK?”
Joseph, who was not made available to the media after Sunday’s game, spoke for the first time Monday about his miss, and said “that’s on me.” He was asked about the message on his hat and about what his teammates have said to him since the miss.
“No one took it harder than me, because I know what I’m capable of,” Joseph said. “But a lot of the guys came up to my locker, told me they loved me, told me they have my back.”
Joseph named quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook, wide receivers Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn, and fullback C.J. Ham as among the many who consoled him.
“This doesn’t define me, and they know that,” Joseph said. “This one kick does not define me as a human or as an athlete. It can be a make or break in the career-type deal, but I promise this is not going to break me. This is only going to propel me.”
Joseph’s miss comes on the heels of notable breakdowns from multiple Vikings kickers over the years. Gary Anderson missed a key 39-yard attempt in the 1998 NFC Championship Game. Blair Walsh botched a last-second 27-yard attempt that would have won a 2015 playoff game. And in more recent years, Daniel Carlson and Dan Bailey have had meltdowns that ended up costing them their jobs.
Joseph shrugged off a question about whether the franchise’s previous misses have led to additional scrutiny of him. He reiterated that he does not look at social media.
To say the least, Joseph has been up and down since joining the Vikings this year as a free agent. In the preseason, he made all his shorter kicks but missed 51- and 52-yard field-goal attempts.
In the regular season, Joseph has made the long ones but has missed shorter attempts. Joseph forced overtime on a last-second 53-yard field goal in Week 1 at Cincinnati, a game the Vikings eventually lost 27-24, and he made two 52-yarders earlier in the Cardinals game. But he also missed an extra point in the second quarter.
There has been one constant to all four of his preseason and regular-season misses. They’ve been wide right.
“My contact feels good, but it’s just me following through on the ball more, just keeping my head down on some of those,” he said. “That’s obviously something I’m going to get back to the drawing board on this week.”
Zimmer had confidence in Joseph entering the game’s final play. After Osborn caught a eight-yard pass from Cousins to the Arizona 19 for a first down with 40 seconds left, rather than run another play, Zimmer elected to run the clock down to two seconds before calling Minnesota’s final timeout.
“It felt good off my foot,” Joseph said of the attempt, which was about a foot wide. “That’s why I was surprised when I looked up and saw it right, and that’s kind of why I put my hands on my head, was an initial reaction. … (It was) frustrating … letting those guys in the locker room down because I knew how badly they wanted to win, and of course they deserved to win, so that hurt me more than anything.”
Joseph said Zimmer told him “the game wasn’t lost on that last final kick.” Zimmer, whose Vikings are off to an 0-2 start for the second straight season, reiterated that Monday.
“You know, this kid has kicked well,” Zimmer said. “He missed a couple this week. That wasn’t the reason why we lost the game.”
The message was similar from Thielen, who has been with the Vikings for eight seasons, living through the notable misses by Walsh, Carlson, Bailey and now Joseph.
“The biggest thing is, as a team, we’ve got to stick together,” Thielen said. “We can’t lose confidence because of one play. I was able to talk to (Joseph) in the locker room and say, “Man, I’ve been a part of games where I’ve fumbled in big situations and lost the game.’ It doesn’t define you, and there’s going to be an opportunity for him moving forward that’s going to be an even bigger kick that he’s going to be able to out there and kick it through there and win us a game.”
Next up for Joseph is Sunday’s home opener against Seattle. He vows to be ready.
“Didn’t work out (at Arizona), but on to the next,” he said.