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Notebook: Vikings Offensive Line Starters Settled, Prepping for Saints

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Pat Elflein isn't new to the national spotlight, but stepping foot on the NFL stage is a whole new ball game.

The former Buckeye said he's excited to help lead the Vikings offense against the Saints in less than a week.

"This is the biggest one yet," Elflein said. "Playing on a big stage in college helps, but this is another level. It's going to be a big one."

Elflein, selected by the Vikings in the third round of this year's draft, was named the Vikings starting center after the 53-man roster was established on Saturday. When he takes the field on Monday Night Football, it will mark the first time Minnesota has started a rookie at center in Week 1 since Mick Tingelhoff in 1962.

Elflein said he's focusing on not overanalyzing the upcoming game, however, and that receiving a starting nod against a stout Seattle defense in the second preseason game was helpful.

"You don't want to stress yourself out and freak out and make it bigger than what it is," Elflein said. "But you have to be locked in and be ready to adjust and be ready to react to different things. 

"I think [the Seattle game] helped prepare me for this moment," Elflein added. "But now it's a full, four-quarter, regular-season game. So I know it's going to be a little ramped up, too." 

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he was impressed with the way Elflein and Nick Easton played next to each other against the Seahawks. 

"I thought they did a really good job," Zimmer said of the young duo. "They came off the ball low, they got to the second level, they did a good job in pass protection."

As it stands for Week 1, Minnesota's starting combination on the offensive line will be Riley Reiff (LT), Easton (LG), Elflein (C), Joe Berger (RG) and Mike Remmers (RT). Reserves on the active roster are guard Danny Isidora and three tackles: Rashod Hill, Jeremiah Sirles and undrafted rookie Aviante Collins.

Elflein said he appreciates playing between two former centers in Easton and Berger. 

"It gives everybody confidence," Elflein said. "Half the time they know the call just as you know it, and they could make it just as fast as you make it. So when everyone's on the same page like that, it helps your offensive line."

Zimmer said he "feels good" about the combination of linemen the team has settled on to start the season. Only Berger is returning as a starter after the 2016 season, during which the unit was ravaged by injuries and forced to shuffle numerous times.

"I've sat in that room a lot, and these guys have good conversation," Zimmer said. "They work well together, and we've been mixing around the rotations quite a bit."

After working with a number of different combinations, Remmers said he feels confident heading into the season with the one the lineup coaches have rested on.

"We've had a lot of guys in and out, so we've got to get a feel for anyone. We're excited for this game," Remmers said. "It's awesome. It's a great opportunity to go out there and play. We're going to do everything we can to prepare and go out there and do the best we can." 

Added comfort for the unit comes from having Sam Bradford at quarterback.

Elflein called Bradford "probably the smartest guy on the field."

"He knows everything and can always make you right when you're wrong," Elflein said. "So having someone back there that can really take over and take control is awesome. It gives everybody confidence and raises their level of play."

Rhodes ready for the regular season

After minicamp, training camp and four preseason games, Xavier Rhodes said the Vikings defense has been shaking the dust off and needs to get to business.

"In the preseason, you're trying to get into the flow of things," Rhodes said. "But now we're in the regular season … the records are going to be 0-0 out there in Week 1. So we have to realize that and try to minimize the mistakes."

Now entering fifth year in the NFL, Rhodes said he's grown in the mental aspect of the game. He added that it's odd to hear the term "veteran" tied to his name.

"Just two years ago, last year, I was one of the young guys," Rhodes said. "But being labeled as a vet, Coach is looking forward to me helping out the younger guys and coaching them up. So I try my best to help those guys out and put them in a great position like Coach wanted me to."

View the Vikings roster as the front office made the final cuts to open the 2017 season.

Tramaine Brook on being back in Minnesota

It's been nearly a decade since cornerback Tramaine Brock lived in Minnesota, but he's happy to be back.

Brock, whom the Vikings acquired from the Seahawks via trade, played collegiately for the Golden Gophers during his junior season.

"I'm excited to be back in Minnesota and just being a part of this defense," Brock said. "I feel like they've got a great defense, just like Seattle. I want to be a part of it and just come out here and make plays."

Brock spent seven seasons in San Francisco prior to signing with Seattle on Aug. 16 and has played both nickel and outside cornerback throughout his career. Zimmer did not specify exactly where Brock will be utilized initially on Minnesota's defense but said he likes his skill set.

"I thought that his cover skills were good in the things that he had done in the last year and his ability to do the things that we do defensively," Zimmer said.

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