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Zimmer: Joe Berger to Fill in While Brandon Fusco is Out

MANKATO, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Saturday that Brandon Fusco has "looked a lot better" this training camp than last year.

After coming back from an injury in 2014, Fusco was shifted from right guard to left guard for all of 2015. Although he started all 16 games at the position, he wasn't happy with the results.

"I just never found a groove, maybe it was a confidence issue thing with getting beaten more than usual," Fusco said.

The signing of free agent Alex Boone has allowed Fusco to move back to right guard, and the sixth-year pro can tell a difference.

"I feel right back at home and very comfortable there," Fusco said. "You can tell by the way I played, it wasn't up to the expectations of myself or to Vikings football. I think they knew I was there on the right and had more success in the past."

Onlookers could hear confident aggression in Fusco from the opening individual position drills led by new offensive line coach Tony Sparano, and he's held his own in 1-on-1 drills with Vikings defensive linemen.

"This is probably the best I've seen him look since I've been here," Zimmer said. "He's done a good job of being physical in the run and in pass protection."

Fusco suffered an injury during Friday's practice, and the Vikings turned to veteran Joe Berger, a super sub capable of playing both guard positions and center.

Berger started all 16 games at center in 2015 after John Sullivan suffered an injury during the preseason. Berger and Sullivan have been alternating days at center with the first team, but Zimmer said Berger will fill in while Fusco is out.

"[Berger has] been a real pro and has played all of those spots, came in and did a great job at center," Zimmer said. "Right now, with Fusco hurt, he's filling in for him. Guys like that are really valuable because obviously you get injuries."

Zimmer said he doesn't think Fusco will "be out very long," but added, "It may not be as soon as I had hoped."

Kendricks showing versatility

Chad Greenway, the longest-tenured Viking, is preparing for his 11th pro season. He's seen a good bit of football and lots of young players come and go. He's also seen teams across the league turning to young players earlier in their careers.

Such was the case in 2015 for Eric Kendricks, who became the first rookie to lead the Vikings in tackles (105 by coaches' tally) since Rip Hawkins in the inaugural 1961 season.

"I think he's done what we were anticipating. He's picked up from where he left off last season," Greenway said. "He's a great player and a good kid. He wants to be great, works at it, listens.

"You can't draw up a young kid better than Eric and how his approach has been and his willingness to do different things and play hard all of the time," Greenway added. "He's got a great career in front of him, and I'm excited for him."

Night practice on the way

The Vikings will hold Saturday's practice inside Blakeslee Stadium under the lights, an annual tradition that signals the regular season is another step closer.

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