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Lunch Break, 11/12: Valuable Veteran

Although the Vikings made quite a youth movement this past offseason, they knew keeping some veteran depth would be crucial. That's exactly what offensive lineman Joe Berger provides.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bears.

With a couple injuries along the offensive line this season, Berger has had to step into a couple different roles, which isn't anything knew. Star Tribune's Mark Craig profiles the versatile O-lineman here:

John Sullivan was getting word through Brandon Fusco that some reporter was asking around about Joe Berger.* *

"Our 'Jack of All Trades,' " Fusco, the Vikings' injured right guard, said to Sullivan, the starting center.

"Nah," said Sullivan. "He's more like our Nine of Hearts."

Fusco and Sullivan laughed. So did Berger, the career backup sitting quietly at the locker next to Sullivan.

Whatever card he is, it's hard to imagine another NFL player being more valuable for a longer period of time while drawing less outside attention than Berger has since graduating magna cum laude with a mechanical engineering degree from Michigan Tech in 2005.

"It's hard for me to place a value on what I do," said Berger, who will make his third consecutive start at right guard in Chicago on Sunday. "In my mind, I just come to work and do my job. You know?"

Berger was a high school tackle in Newaygo, Mich. After that, he was a decorated Division II right tackle who started 28 games at a college that tried to disband football. If not for some deep-pocketed alumni stepping in to save the program, Berger guesses his 10-year NFL career — and counting — never would have happened because he had no intentions of leaving Michigan Tech without that degree.

"Math and science were kind of my thing in high school," said Berger, who had a 3.8 grade-point average at Michigan Tech. "I loved getting that degree, and I've kind of looked into what I can do with it after football. Maybe it's owning a business or working as an engineer. But it's really hard to nail that down as long as I'm still playing football and don't really have to nail it down."

On a team that went through a dramatic youth movement after last season, Berger, 32, and defensive tackle Tom Johnson, 30, are the only backups older than 30.

Berger, who hasn't been a regular starter for the Vikings, will appear in his 55th game on Sunday for Minnesota proving that his stability and veteran presence is definitely an asset.

Quick Hitters

  • Craig Peters with an in-depth story on the new Minnesota stadium: Inclusion Emphasized for New Vikings Stadium Construction.
  • Vikings Make Veterans Day Visit – Via
  • Former Bear Wootton expects Bears' best from Viking Update's Eric Oslund.
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