The Vikings have endured plenty of injuries during the 2012 training camp, but no unit has been more victimized than the offensive line.
First, DeMarcus Love injured his shoulder. Then Pat Brown sprained the MCL in his left knee. Then Geoff Schwartz suffered a sports hernia and Jeff Charleston sprained an ankle. Brown and Charleston are day to day, but Love has been out a week and will miss at least one more session before he returns to live practice. Schwartz is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday and expected to be out for over a month.
On Saturday, the Vikings signed two offensive linemen who were discarded by other teams: Grant Cook (Packers) and Bridger Buche (Steelers). Coach Leslie Frazier said the team would continue to look for more linemen.
Those new players may help the team get through camp, but the Vikings need to get ready to start playing games, and the biggest key to their success will be the performance of the new offensive line. On the left side, Charlie Johnson moved to left guard to make room for rookie LT Matt Kalil. Schwartz was brought in to battle OL Brandon Fusco at right guard, and that battle was back and forth until Schwartz was injured.
The problem remaining is getting the unit intact before the games start. With the first preseason game scheduled for Friday in San Francisco, the injuries are certain to affect playing time.
“Injuries are a part of (the game),” Johnson said. “It’s hard any time people get hurt, but the good thing about it is it builds depth. Because you're getting some guys who might not ordinarily get as many reps; they’re getting more time with the ones and twos. So it’s bad in a sense you are losing guys, but at the same time you are getting guys ready to play -- because that is what is going to happen during the season. A guy is going to get banged up, but these reps will help the guys who are going to come in.”
New faces can mean time spent building chemistry, but the the unit's leader, C John Sullivan, doesn't expect it to be an issue.
“We have great leadership with the coaches, and a couple veteran guys on the offensive line who have stepped up --Charlie Johnson, myself, Phil Loadholt, Joe Berger," he said. "We have a hard-working group. It’s not the type that needs to be kicked in the pants to get them going. The rookies and the young guys care. Fusco’s been in a battle for a starting spot at right guard, so he doesn’t need any extra motivation. We’re out here all the time working our butts off.”