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Elflein Ready to Give Vikings 'Everything I've Got'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings center Pat Elflein doesn't shy away from responsibility, but he's also not going to get too far ahead of himself.

Elflein took the podium for the first time in purple after Friday's rookie minicamp walk-through. The third-round draft pick out of Ohio State feels confident that he can start. If he receives a starting nod at center, he said he's ready to step up and lead the group.

"That's the job as the center, and if that's what it is, that's what it is," Elflein told Twin Cities media. "I'm sure the older veterans will help make the call, but that's a long ways down the road. I just have to keep getting better and keep learning, being a part of this team."

Elflein played three years at guard for the Buckeyes before sliding inside to center for the 2016 season and taking on the duty of making calls for the whole offensive line.

"It's challenging, but I made the calls at Ohio State," he said. "It's definitely harder than Ohio State, but it's a learning curve, and you have to adapt, and you have to spend extra time in the playbook. You have to spend extra time meeting with [offensive line coach Tony Sparano], and you have to get it down, because when you're out there, the center runs it. You have to be able to do that and do it with confidence."

With the first walk-through alongside new teammates under his belt, Elflein was looking forward to the afternoon practice session, as well. He said he hopes to show Sparano and the rest of the coaching staff that he's a versatile athlete who's able to play wherever they ask him to.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said during his podium session that he's feeling positive about the way Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has worked to revamp the entire offensive line this offseason.

Along with tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, both signed in free agency, Zimmer said he believes Elflein brings with him an element of toughness that Zimmer wants to see in the position group.

"He's going to be that kind of guy," Zimmer said of Elflein. "If we're not the most athletic, maybe we'll be the toughest and the most physical."

Zimmer said his expectations are based on the players' backgrounds, their game film and the glimpses of their personality he's seen so far.

"I guess you kind of go on that," Zimmer said. "It still comes down to, 'I've got to block that guy, and [the two of us] have to block those two.' I mean, that's what it comes down to at the end of the day. Get your pads down and come off the ball."

Added Zimmer: "If we're going to make a mistake, we're going to make it full speed and aggressive."

Elflein's mindset is to be as well-versed in the system as possible to minimize those mistakes. After a couple of days with the playbook, he said the offense didn't stray too far from what he's comfortable with.

"It's just all the terminology is a little different," Elflein said. "A few different wrinkles here and there; you just have to re-learn an offense, so that takes time."

Elflein will be studying Minnesota's offense as a center and as a guard. He believes he has the physical traits and athleticism to have an immediate presence in the NFL, but he added that the steepest learning curve is likely to be mental.

"Being a center, or just being on the offensive line in general, you have to be a smart player," Elflein. "Just getting the offense down and taking those steps mentally is what's going to be probably my biggest learning point so far."

Elflein will be learning along with guard Danny Isidora, whom the Vikings drafted in the fifth round (180th overall).

Isidora said he enjoyed being back on the football field and was pleasantly surprised by Minnesota's sunny, 72-degree weather.

"Today's a little warm," quipped Isidora, a native of Florida who played four seasons at Miami. "I thought it was going to be a lot colder, but the weather's really good. I like it."

Realizing his dream of being in the NFL is especially significant for Isidora after becoming the first Cypress Bay High School graduate to be drafted.

"It just means more to come from my school," Isidora said. "I'm excited and truly blessed."

Isidora went on to play collegiately for a school with a much more esteemed reputation on the gridiron. In the University of Miami's history, more than 300 players have been drafted to the NFL.

"I have to come out here and represent the U," Isidora said. "I just want to keep staying in the playbook and making sure I know my assignments."

Both Isidora and Elflein will look to Sparano to help them transition into the big leagues.

Elflein said it's an opportunity he's grateful to have.

"He's awesome," Elflein said of Sparano. "I love being in the room with him, and he's a great teacher. There's some good guys in the room right now, so just trying to learn everything I can from them."

Elflein also comes from a highly touted Ohio State program. He was one of seven Buckeyes drafted this year alone and one of 115 selected since the 2000 NFL Draft.

While his long-term goal is to be a starter for the Minnesota Vikings, Elflein is keeping his short-term goals well within reach.

"A lot my former teammates [started right away]. Hats off to them, they're great players, they went into a great situation and played well all year," Elflein said. "I'm just trying to come in and give this team everything I've got. And whatever happens on the field, that's why I'm here, just to help this team."

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