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Kaare Vedvik hoping defined role helps him find NFL home with Bills

Kaare Vedvik has already helped the Buffalo Bills win one game.

Of course, it came in a way the Norwegian kicker and punter would rather forget.

Vedvik was a member of the New York Jets at the start of the 2019 season, having been claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings just days before the Bills visited MetLife Stadium in Week 1. He proceeded to miss a 45-yard field goal and an extra point, points that proved crucial in what would go on to be a 17-16 win for the Bills.

A couple of days later, Vedvik was released by the Jets.

“At any point in your career, you're going to have certain moments that you don't do what you're expecting out of yourself,” Vedvik, 26, said. “So for me, after that game, I took full accountability for what happened. It was not what anybody wanted to happen. It's not what I wanted to happen, but this is part of it. The Jets moved on, so I went back to work. For me, that's a lesson just to become a better athlete and learn more about the game. You do learn a lot about yourself throughout this sport. Your perspective on everything is what's important here. That you use it to make yourself better and improve in all the areas that you can."

Vedvik spent the last few weeks of the 2019 season on the Bengals’ practice squad, but in January the Cincinnati front office elected not to bring him back for this year. He soon signed a reserve/futures contract with the Bills, his fourth team in three years, underscoring how thin the margin for error is in his line of work.

He will attempt to win the punting job from Corey Bojorquez, whose net average of 38.2 yards per punt was among the league's worst, but whose 34 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line were among the league's best.

"My attitude is you go through hardship," Vedvik said. "What defines your character is you take that, you learn from it and you become better, and then you continue on. So right now, I've got the opportunity with the Buffalo Bills and I'm beyond excited for this.”

Stephen Hauschka of the Bills greets Kaare Vedvik of the New York Jets after the Bills' 17-16 win in Week 1. Vedvik was cut soon after. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

'It's been a journey'

The Bills' interest was grounded in having Vedvik attempt a different role than the one he had for the Jets.

“So, first position, punter,” Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said last month. “Position two, he's the kickoff guy, and he can compete as a long field goal guy, too.”

Vedvik is experienced with all three jobs, handling them as a redshirt senior at Marshall University in 2017. He was named a first-team All-Conference USA selection as a punter that year, punting 59 times for 2,597 yards – a 44.0-yard average. He placed 26 of those 59 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and 16 of his 59 punts were returned for a total of just 62 yards. He had a 92-yard punt in a game against Old Dominion that was the longest by an FBS punter in 45 years, and the seventh longest of all time.

As a kicker, he went 10 of 16 on field goals and made 41 of 42 extra points, while 32 of his 60 kickoffs went for touchbacks.

“My senior year, our field goal kicker was injured. The coaching staff came to me and said, ‘We have some young kickers on the team. We know you can kick field goals, are you able to do all three this year?’ ” Vedvik said. “I said, ‘Yes I can.’ Then I went about my way to managing how I did all three. So for me, that was being smart about the amount of reps you do. The fact I already knew how to do all three, I was able to do that effectively.

"There was added responsibility to handle all three duties. By the time I came to the NFL, the added responsibility from an early stage, I kind of started understanding … the amount of responsibility a player has at their own position was heightened. It was very beneficial.”

The pressure, though, is what attracted him to the sport in the first place.

“That’s something I really understood well before I started playing this sport,” he said. “You come from a different country, you see how big this sport is in the U.S. It's huge. So I noticed that, and that's also what drew me to the sport, was the amount of spotlight this sport has, and how important it is to Americans. You see the locker room, everybody coming together to make this game happen. It's really just incredible. So I’ve always had a different perspective on the pressure.”

Vedvik grew up in Stavanger, a coastal city of about 130,000 in southwestern Norway. While the Super Bowl would air on Norwegian TV, his first real exposure to American football came primarily through YouTube clips. He was particularly fond of former Bengals receiver Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson’s elaborate touchdown celebrations. That led to him choosing to spend a year abroad in the United States.

When Vedvik arrived at McPherson High School in Kansas, he wanted to be a receiver like Johnson. After his coaches discovered his soccer background, however, they convinced him he had a future as a kicker. He landed on the recruiting map when he hit a 70-yard field goal at a kicking camp in Texas. After returning to Norway for his senior year of high school, Vedvik came back to America to play at Marshall. He redshirted as a freshman, then spent the next season, 2014, training to transition to punter.

“I grew up playing soccer, so it was natural for me knowing how to kick a ball off the ground,” he said. “That's how I was able to display my leg strength at an early time. When I was in college, my sophomore year, I made the transition to be a punter because the team needed a punter. My field goal ability was honed in at an early stage, it was something I was able to always do, but after my sophomore year, I made the decision I wanted to be a punter.

“I didn't have any idea it would lead me to being able to actually play at a collegiate level, let alone come to the NFL and play. As a kid, that seems like a faraway dream. That it can become reality is pretty cool.”

Vedvik’s strong senior season led to him being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Baltimore Ravens. Before his rookie season even began, though, he ran into adversity. Vedvik was assaulted after a night out in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood. He was subsequently placed on the reserve/non-football injury list, where he spent the entire year.

The following year, Vedvik started the preseason for the Ravens by going 4 of 4 on field goals, including a 55-yarder, and hit two punts of 50-plus yards. That performance led to him being traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a fifth-round draft pick.

Although Vedvik averaged 48.1 yards on seven punts in the preseason, the Vikings released him just weeks after trading for him.

“It's been a journey now since after college,” Vedvik said. “But in the end, adversity is to be expected on a journey."

A new location

Vedvik usually spends his offseason in Birmingham, Ala., training with Mike McCabe at One on One Kicking. Earlier this month, though, he rented an Airbnb in Atlanta. That has allowed him to work out with Bills long snapper Reid Ferguson and rookie place kicker Tyler Bass, who was drafted by the Bills in the sixth round last month. Given that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has kept NFL teams from being able to gather for spring practices, it’s been beneficial for Ferguson, Vedvik and Bass to be geographically close enough to each other that they’ve been able to do some on-field work together.

“It's been good work,” Vedvik said. “We're just focusing on honing in that operation, because for us that's what's important, that by the time training camp comes we're able to step in and do what our job is.”

Bills punter Kaare Vedvik has been working out in a park and other locations around Atlanta to stay in shape (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Being able to work with Bass and Ferguson means Vedvik is practicing both parts of what his job would be should he beat out Bojorquez – holding and punting.

“For me to be able to work with Reid and Tyler right now is very valuable and a big reason why I decided to move closer,” Vedvik said. “Outside of the operation, Reid has already shown he's a leader type and he has a big role on this team. It’s very valuable for me to be around him just to be able to pick his brain.”

Ferguson was one of the Bills’ captains on special teams last year. He’s in the somewhat awkward spot of working out with Bass and Vedvik knowing that they are actively trying to take the jobs of Stephen Hauschka and Bojorquez, with whom Ferguson has worked closely the past two seasons. That comes with being a team captain, though.

“I'm working with those guys just out of respect for them because I know the position they're in,” Ferguson said of Bass and Vedvik. “They're coming in to try and compete for a spot. Me being the snapper, I'm essentially going to be their guy if they win the job, right? So I want to give them a fair shake in the lead-up to when that decision has got to be made.

"(Being voted a team captain) was probably one of the proudest achievements of my career thus far. ... The more I kind of dove into being put on that pedestal. It is my responsibility to take that initiative to kind of be that guy who kind of makes things happen, whether it's getting together with Vedvik and Bass on the weekend and doing operations or it's some of the other new guys who are going to be playing special teams, making sure they're all on the right page for meetings and how things operate on the punt team, whatever it might be, I definitely take that really seriously.”

As for what he’s seen out of Vedvik in the few times they’ve worked out together?

“I can see why teams are continuing to give him a shot to earn a job,” Ferguson said. “He's got a big leg. He can hit a really nice ball.”

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