EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Brandon Fusco has been working to return to right guard since suffering a season-ending injury in Week 3 at New Orleans.
If the Vikings current plan holds, it might be quite some time before he's back in that spot, but not because of injury.
Fusco worked exclusively at left guard on Wednesday during the team's second of 10 scheduled organized team activity practices.
After starting 31 games at right guard from 2012-13, Fusco entered the 2014 season with a contract extension but suffered a torn pectoral muscle in September.
"It's an amazing feeling (to return to action)," Fusco said of the non-contact practices. "It's been a long time. I don't like being hurt. I've never been hurt before, so my goal is to stay healthy, have a great year and play football again."
Fusco said he respects the coaches' decision and is embracing the adjustment that will require some modifications to footwork and weight distribution.
It also will involve working with left tackle Matt Kalil instead of right tackle Phil Loadholt on combination blocks and passing assignments in protection, and playing on center John Sullivan's left instead of his right. Loadholt suffered an injury similar to Fusco's in November.
Fusco and Kalil said they are already building the communication methods and establishing trust that helps linemen work together. They are expanding the off-the-field relationship too.
"We're trying to hang out a little more," Kalil said before joking about a budding bromance, "Phil is kind of getting a little upset. That was his boy, and I'm stealing him away. I told him, 'You guys can't hang out anymore.' No, it's all good.
"I think we're a pretty close group on the offensive line," Kalil continued. "We've had a lot of the same guys for a number of years since I've been here. That's pretty rare to have. Usually guys go out and come in every single year. For the most part, we've been a pretty close group, and I think we're definitely playing with a chip on our shoulder, kind of putting the weight of the offense on our backs."
Kalil, the fourth overall pick of 2012, said Fusco, a sixth-round selection out of Slippery Rock in 2011, is quick, strong and smart.
"He's kind of the whole package," Kalil said. "He's the kind of guy, obviously he came from D2, but he's one of those steals in the draft that keeps getting better and better every year. I could see him in the Pro Bowl this year. He's a great player.
"As the years go on and the better he gets, he's that guy that's out here before practice working on his technique and little steps, so you can kind of see those things are paying off the older he gets," Kalil added. "It's awesome to play next to him. I'm speaking about him like a veteran, but he's older than me. I'm definitely excited for this year, especially on those double team blocks. We're going to get after some guys, so that's pretty fun."
Fusco will turn 27 in July, 20 days after Kalil turns 26. Kalil worked through knee problems last season but started all 16 games and rallied for a strong finish down the stretch and said, "it's the best I've felt in a long time" from mental and physical standpoints. Fusco said he can tell Kalil feels better physically, and both think they will benefit after the foundation for Norv Turner's offense was laid last season.
"He's a good player," Fusco said. "This is the best I've ever seen Matt Kalil since I've been here. His legs and knees seem great. He's moving out there and knows the playbook a lot better so the mental side is going to help his game out a lot. It's going to be a great year."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the primary reason for the switch was so that rookie T.J. Clemmings would work at right guard. The fourth rounder has never played guard, but started 26 games at right tackle in his final two college seasons.
"It was really about putting him over there, putting Clemmings at the right side and making it easier for him, as opposed to moving to the other side," Zimmer said. "We know that Fusco can always move back if we plug somebody else in the left guard."
NICKEL AND CORNER: Zimmer said the Vikings are working with first-round pick Trae Waynes at nickel and cornerback and has shown "flashes of really good stuff," but is still working and learning "like all young guys do."
"He's still thinking, the alignments and a lot of detail stuff that he's got to continue to improve at and there's a lot of things he has to work at, but he is very sincere about trying to get better every day," Zimmer said. "He's kind of a quiet kid. Kind of like Teddy (Bridgewater) was last year, the more comfortable he gets, the more assertive he will be in a lot of different ways."
PETERSON STATEMENT:There has been much speculation in the media regarding the absence of Adrian Peterson during the voluntary offseason workout program that is scheduled to culminate with a mandatory minicamp June 16-18.
Zimmer **answered questions** on the Peterson situation during a media session, and Peterson issued a statement to ESPN's Josina Anderson Wednesday night.
Peterson's statement to Anderson said: "The reason I'm not attending OTAs has nothing to do with wanting to be traded. It's about securing my future with the Vikings. It's business, not personal and I understand that firsthand. Go Vikings."
UP NEXT: The Vikings will have their third OTA practice Thursday when the forecast is sunny and in the 70s.