Vikings draft a punter, meaning the Chris Kluwe era is probably over

We're willing to bet Jeff Locke doesn't look this good without his shirt on.
We're willing to bet Jeff Locke doesn't look this good without his shirt on.

On Saturday, the Vikings became the first team to select a punter during the 2013 draft, taking UCLA's Jeff Locke during the fifth round.

SEE ALSO: Chris Kluwe is Salon's Sexiest Man of 2012

Unfortunately, the Purple's use of a draft pick for arguably the best punter available probably signals the end of Chris Kluwe's storied eight-year run here in Minnesota.

Kluwe, of course, is better known for his outspoken support of gay rights (among other causes he champions) than for anything he's accomplished on the gridiron, but he quietly had a solid season last year, ranking 17th in the league with a career-best average of 39.7 net yards per punt.

But at 31, he's relatively old, and his non-guaranteed $1.45 contract for next season makes him relatively expensive when compared with a rookie.

As you'd expect, Vikings GM Rick Spielman said Kluwe's off-the-field exploits didn't have anything to do with the move to draft a punter (though the Vikings' special teams coach said in December that Kluwe's "distractions" were "getting old"). Spielman also said Locke's addition doesn't necessarily signal that Kluwe has kicked his last ball in a Vikings uniform.

"I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion," Spielman said, according to the AP. "That's his right. That's his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy and come in and compete."

Kluwe, meanwhile, was as colorful as ever in his response to Saturday's news.

In a text message he sent to Pro Football Talk, Kluwe said: "I'm looking forward to competing for the Vikings' punting job, as I would love to spend my entire career here, and as the best punter in Vikings history, I'm enjoying the chance to show what I can do."

"I'm hoping I get a chance to compete," Kluwe told the AP. "If not, we all get cut eventually and I'll just have to go and find another job."

As he's wont to do, Kluwe also shared some thoughts on Saturday via Twitter:

No Manti T'eo and likely no Kluwe? The 2013 Vikings won't be as fun as they could've been, unfortunately.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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