MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings left their preseason home opener Saturday night with a 26-16 win over the Buccaneers, but a possible loss loomed large.
Phil Loadholt, who's held the starting right tackle spot since he was drafted in 2009, was injured on the Vikings second snap from scrimmage, and the Vikings believe it's a torn Achilles, Head Coach Mike Zimmer said.
"It's disappointing for Phil because he has worked so hard and he is such a great person but it's part of football," Zimmer said. "Guys get hurt and the next guy has got to come, and we go."
Loadholt suffered a torn pec last November that cost him the final five games of 2014 but had worked to return to the lineup as the Vikings planned to move Mike Harris (replaced Loadholt last season) to right guard and move Brandon Fusco from right guard to left guard.
"He worked his tail off getting back here to be a hundred percent, but that's the game of football," Fusco said of his close friend. "Stuff happens, freak accidents, and it's unfortunate. He's a hard-working guy and he cares so much about the game of football, and he's a big-time locker room guy. It's a big loss."
The Vikings turned to fourth-round pick T.J. Clemmings, who played two seasons of right tackle at the University of Pittsburgh. The Vikings initially took a look at Clemmings at right guard to open the offseason program but decided to move Harris to the post and practice Clemmings exclusively at tackle.
I thought he did well," Zimmer said. "It's hard for me to see everything, but I thought we protected well tonight for the quarterbacks. Our completion percentage was off the charts. We did a lot of good things, and when you can protect like that, it makes it better for the quarterback."
View in-game images of Saturday's preseason home opener against the Buccaneers.
Clemmings said he wouldn't change the approach he's taken during the offseason program.
"I am just going to keep doing what I have been doing," Clemmings said. "My mindset is to work hard and keep working on my craft every single day. My focus, regardless of the situation is to work hard, improve on what I need to and take in as much information from the veterans as I can."
Matt Kalil, the starting left tackle, said it was hard to see Loadholt go down.
"Phil is a tough guy," Kalil said. "He's a fighter; he's one of the biggest leaders on this team."
Other possible options at tackle include:
Carter Bykowski, Tyrus Thompson, Austin Shepherd and Babatunde Aiyegbusi.