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Bleacher Report – Vikings

One day into camp, things not going according to plan for offensive line

By Judd Zulgad

By Joe Oberle

MANKATO — At most Vikings training camps, little attention is paid to the daily grind and grunting of the offensive line drills. That changed this offseason when the line became the focus of free agency for the team.

Now, with Phil Loadholt retiring before training camp and Mike Harris going on the non-football illness list before the first walk-thru practice of camp, all eyes are suddenly on the line.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The Vikings signed left guard Alex Boone and right tackle Andre Smith in free agency to shore up depth for a line that used three backups (including a rookie) and a player out of position in 2016. Because of the moves, the offensive line entered the offseason looking like one of the deepest positions on the team, but suddenly the unit looks slightly precarious.

Loadholt’s retirement took place earlier in the week, and it did not come as a complete surprise. But it was quickly followed up on Friday with the news that Harris, who started at right guard last season, would be sidelined for an unknown period of time. Coach Mike Zimmer did not address the injury, but it reportedly was an issue with Harris’ head.

Regardless, the Vikings took the field for their initial morning walk-thru and first practice of camp in the afternoon with Matt Kalil at left tackle, Boone at left guard, John Sullivan at center, Brandon Fusco at right guard and Smith at right tackle. After the walk-thru, Zimmer was asked about the rotation, and his answer seemed to indicate the starting offensive line is a fluid situation at best.

“The five guys we have will probably change, No. 1,” Zimmer said. “No. 2 I’ve talked about having competition this whole time, and I’m not going to divvy up five guys after a walk thru. So, we’ve still got a lot of time to figure it out, and until we get in pads, I won’t make any decisions on anything.”

Sullivan is returning after missing all of last season following two back surgeries. Sullivan’s return and continued health is no certainty. As an NFL center, a position that is all about strength, technique and power, only time will tell if his surgically repaired back can hold up to the rigors of the job.

“I think so, “ Sullivan said when asked if he thought he was going to be the same player he was before the injury. “We’ll find out here really quickly. I feel good.”

The Vikings still have some depth on the line—there are 15 linemen in camp besides Harris. But there is only depth if the front line players can remain healthy. Tackles Kalil and Smith have both had a history of injuries in their careers.

The Vikings do have some position flexibility on the line. Joe Berger, 34, who did a solid job last season as Sullivan’s replacement, also can play guard. Fusco has been used at both guard spots and T.J. Clemmings, who started last season at right tackle in place of Loadholt, is working at both tackles this summer.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that one day into camp a position group that looked as if it would be as deep as it has been in years suddenly has everyone’s attention.

The post One day into camp, things not going according to plan for offensive line appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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