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Berger Embracing Competition along Offensive Line

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Much has been made about the fierce competition that is likely to unfold along the Vikings offensive line in the coming months.

As the Vikings prepare to kick off organized team activity practices on Tuesday, count Joe Berger as one who is embracing the amount of talent up front.

Berger started every game at center last season and has excelled in backing up John Sullivan, who missed all of 2015 with a back injury.

Minnesota was the only team to start the same five linemen in every game in 2015. Berger was joined by left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Brandon Fusco, right guard Mike Harris and right tackle T.J. Clemmings.

With Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt (torn Achilles) both returning after missing the entire season, the unit is even more crowded.

And that doesn't include the pair of free agents the Vikings signed in left guard Alex Boone and right tackle Andre Smith.

Add it up and the Vikings have nine linemen who have started all 16 games in a season on their roster.

"That's why the NFL is great, because you have that competition," Berger said at Winter Park. "With the competition, you push each other to be the best you can be.

"At the end of the day, it's how good you can be and not so much the people around you," he added. 

The jam-packed unit will be led by new offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who was hired in January. 

View images of the Vikings new offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

Berger said Sparano hasn't changed from when the two were together in Dallas (2007) and Miami (2009-10).

"I knew what to expect, so he's been good for us," Berger said.

As he enters his 12th NFL season, the veteran of 115 games played said he's healthy and raring to go.

It's the perfect mindset for the challenge that lies ahead.

"It's pretty much the same routine," Berger said. "I've found something I'm comfortable with, and the body has been able to hold up, so we'll stick with that."

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