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Vikings Roundup, 7/26: Harris Opens at Right Guard

MANKATO, Minn. — Mike Harris spent five games last season and the 2015 offseason filling in for Phil Loadholt.

He opened Verizon Vikings Training Camp Sunday on Loadholt's left side at right guard.  

Harris said coaches let him know the plan near the end of Vikings organized team activity practices last month.

"It's a great opportunity going in," Harris said after the team's first walk-through. "I haven't played a lot of guard, but I feel like with each practice I'll just improve."

Harris was claimed by the Vikings last August after spending the first two-plus seasons with San Diego, including nine starts in 2012 when Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner was head coach of the Chargers.

A double-dose of injuries in Minnesota's game at Buffalo prompted the first action at guard of his post-Pop Warner days of youth football. Veteran swingman Joe Berger stepped in for John Sullivan at center, and Harris stepped in for former reserve Vladimir Ducasse, who was already replacing an injured Brandon Fusco.

"I was just thrown into a hostile environment, having never played the position, but I feel like I can play any position on the line," Harris said. "It's the NFL, and you've got to be able to do that. I had a good OTA and good minicamp. This is the time where the team is counting on me to go in there and perform. That's what I have to do."

Harris held his own that day, but was later needed at right tackle for the final five games of the season.

"He went in there last year and played some and did a good job against Buffalo," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "He has played it in the past. We just felt like we weren't ready to stick a rookie in there right away and say, 'Hey you're the guy.' So we are going to let these guys battle it out see where it goes."

Harris said communication and teamwork are important, especially when teaming with Sullivan on a combination block, as well as quickness with his footwork and jab at the line of scrimmage.

With Loadholt still on the mend during OTAs, Harris took first-team reps at right tackle, and the Vikings took a look at rookies T.J. Clemmings, Tyrus Thompson and second-year pro David Yankey at right guard after deciding to move Fusco to left guard.

"I feel like Phil trusts me know, and John," Harris said. "I know I'm new to the team still and came in late last year, but guys are beginning to trust me, coaches trust me and want me to do the best I can and help this team win."

Loadholt said he feels better, and the offensive line is excited about the return of Adrian Peterson, who received a robust welcome* *from fans when the Vikings checked into their dorm at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

"I'm happy to be healthy and am ready to play," Loadholt said. "It's good. That's definitely a good thing for us, blocking for a guy like Adrian. He's going to give you 110 percent every time. All our backs do, but everyone knows he's the best back in the league."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Saturday that the Vikings plan to have Harris in with the first team for the first few days of camp and will review at the players' first off day.

Zimmer was asked how many players are in consideration for the gig and said, "Actually, quite a few."

"We just have to see who ends up going there and where they go," Zimmer said. "We decided we are probably going to keep T.J. Clemmings at tackle. I think that is his best position after going through all of OTA's and minicamp. Tyrus Thompson is in there. We'll probably give Berger some reps in there at some point. There is still Yankey and we felt like Carter Bykowski who we had in there for a while will probably be best at tackle."

FOCUS ON PEC INJURY PREVENTION: Fusco suffered a torn pec Week 3 at New Orleans, Loadholt endured a similar season-ending injury against Green Bay. This offseason, Brian Robison suffered a pec injury in the weight room, and Josh Robinson endured one during a practice.

The number of pec injuries prompted Zimmer and the Vikings strength and conditioning staff to research what they could do to help prevent others.

"We sat that and talked about all of the different things, what causes pectoral injuries, what we can do to prevent them and what we can do to help," Zimmer said. "We've monitored a lot of things, and a lot of people have told us that it's just freak luck, but sometimes when we're bench pressing and if a guy bounces off the chest, that's where he gets the tears. We're going to work on strengthening the rotator cuffs much more than we have. We're going to warm up better than we have. We've addressed that and always when we get more than one type of injuries, and especially pectoral that is, it's more of an unusual injury, you have to figure out.

"Sometimes when you're benching and you get a pec, you have a strong surface, but when you're out on the field, you don't have anything behind you to hold you back," Zimmer added. "I've actually talked to these guys that had the injuries and asked them if they were fatigued at the time, I've asked them what set it was, if they were benching at that particular time. Most of them have happened on the field. I asked Phil Loadholt, I said, 'How about during the week at practice, did you bench more that week? Did you do more push exercises? How did you feel?' And he said, 'Coach, I felt great that whole week.' We've researched it and we're hopefully on top of it."

Fusco, Loadholt and Robison are doing better and participated Sunday, but Robinson opened camp on the physically unable to perform list. Click here* *for other roster moves announced by the Vikings.

HIGH-ENERGY START: Eric Kendricks was one of 10 draft picks of 2015 to hit the field for his first walk-through and said it provided a great learning opportunity.

"It was good. Everyone was high-energy, ready to play," Kendricks said. "It's going to take some time. I'm still a rookie and adjusting to this package that I'm learning, but I'm working hard and trying to get it."

Kendricks said he's received tips from his brother, Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks, Vikings veteran Chad Greenway and other players.

"Mychal gives me little tips here and there about blitzing or rushing and things like that but for the most part, he told me to be myself and come out there mentally stronger and ready to play," Kendricks said. "It's uncomfortable, but that's what keeps me going, always having that uncomfortable mindset, always wanting to do more, do better in certain areas, always trying to get better. I don't think I've ever felt comfortable on the football field, which is why I keep striving to get better."

WALSH RE-SIGNS: The Vikings announced that they re-signed kicker Blair Walsh Sunday at the onset of the final year of his first NFL contract.

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