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Next Man Up: T.J. Clemmings Stepping Up to Play Left Tackle

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has instilled the "next man up" mentality in his players, and it's been a common theme in the locker room as the Vikings have faced injuries over the past three weeks.

Zimmer announced Wednesday that left tackle Matt Kalil was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury, and second-year tackle T.J. Clemmings will slide into his place.

"He's done pretty well, especially in the preseason," Zimmer said. "He's a good athlete, and he's going to compete and fight."

As a rookie in 2015, Clemmings was called upon to start all 16 games at right tackle after Phil Loadholt suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Clemmings said he's ready to step in again, and he's taking it in stride.

"Things come up," Clemmings said. "We're preparing [for Carolina], going to go out and try to get the win.

"I was a swing tackle, so if anything happened to anybody, I knew I'd be the next man up," he continued. "The opportunity is here, and I just have to [step in] and do my job."

Clemmings started his college career as a defensive tackle at Pittsburgh but converted to offense as a junior. The only snaps he played at left tackle collegiately were at the Senior Bowl. Although he played on the right side all of last season, the Vikings rotated Clemmings between positions throughout spring practices and training camp. Clemmings started at left tackle during Minnesota's preseason wins against San Diego and Los Angeles, and he also spent some time on the left side in the Vikings first preseason matchup at Cincinnati. He played at right tackle at Seattle.

"It feels pretty good – it's getting better," Clemmings said. "I'm pretty comfortable right now."

Clemmings said that an overall higher comfort level with Minnesota's offense will help him in making the transition, and he feels confident about where he's at.

"Just my technique in general – on both sides – have gotten better since last year, and my understanding of what we do as an offense is much better than last year," Clemmings said. "A lot of mistakes I made last year, I probably won't make this year."

Defensive end Brian Robison has gone up against Clemmings in practice and said he's impressed by the 24-year-old's work ethic. It's that mindset that Robison appreciates and believes will be an asset to the team as Clemmings takes over at left tackle.

"He's a guy that gives it 100 percent every single play – that's what we love about T.J.," Robison said. "No matter what happens, no matter what things are going on, he's going to give you everything he's got. That's what you want out of a teammate."

Clemmings' neighbor on the line will be left guard Alex Boone, who joined the Vikings as a free agent this spring. Boone has gotten to know Clemmings throughout the offseason and said he'll be up for the task.

"T.J. is going to step up just fine – we're going to be all right," Boone said. "He's a tough player. He's going to fight to the bitter end. He's long, has great length, is strong, smart, and he's an overall great tackle.

"He's going to fit in just fine," Boone added.

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