DeGeare preparing to play

Rookie Chris DeGeare would be the man the Vikings call upon if Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson can't find a way to play with his fractured thumb. DeGeare talked about what he's learned from Hutchinson over the last six months and his preparedness to play.

Rookie guard Chris DeGeare was on the sidelines last weekend watching fellow rookie Toby Gerhart have his coming-out party in replacement of star running back Adrian Peterson. As the Vikings begin their final preparations for the Buffalo Bills Sunday, DeGeare may be the next member of the 2010 rookie class looking to make his own full-time debut with the Vikings.

DeGeare has been waiting in the wings behind perennial Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson, which, for the most part, has meant being inactive on game days because Hutch has been an ironman at his position. DeGeare, who had been active only two games prior to last week – he was active against the Redskins primarily because the O-line was a bit shorthanded with the season-ending injury to right guard Anthony Herrera – said he's ready to step in if the other starting guard spot becomes open.

Hutchinson broke his right thumb midway through the second quarter of last Sunday's game, about the same time Peterson went down and Gerhart got the call to duty. DeGeare said that he has been working for the moment when he would get asked to contribute on game day and said he's ready for the challenge.

"I've got to prepare myself like I did last week, because I was active," DeGeare said. "I'm still in the mindset that (Hutchinson) will be able to go and, if something were to happen, I'd be ready to go when my numbers is called."

DeGeare said his week has taken a different turn, getting all the first-team reps on Wednesday and Thursday at left guard and said that, with the studying he has been doing, he is heading into Sunday's game with Buffalo ready to make the start and preparing as if that is a forgone conclusion – even though he knows it isn't.

"If I know I'm active, I have to prepare the same way as if I'm going to play," DeGeare said. "You've got to be up to speed with all the play calls and all the calls along the line. Once you know you're active, you're pretty tuned in."

DeGeare, who has spent his entire fledgling career behind Hutchinson, said there won't be any positional jitters come Sunday if he is asked to play. He's spent the last four months preparing for this moment and, if it comes, he is ready to move from being the understudy to the starter under the bright lights.

"I'm pretty comfortable," DeGeare said. "I've been playing left guard since (training) camp. It's pretty much like second nature to me, so I'm pretty comfortable there."

He said the best thing he has going for him is that Hutchinson has been a willing and effective teacher. Both from what he has been told by Hutch to what he has seen watching the little things Hutchinson has done to make himself one of the best to ever play his position, DeGeare said he has learned more as a backup to Hutch that he did as a four-year starter in college.

"Ever since camp, he's been giving me little tips and things about what to do," DeGeare said. "I'll watch him on his technique, which is great for me coming in as a rookie and being able to see somebody that's such a high-caliber player as him has helped me a lot."

The biggest hurdle, DeGeare said, has been getting accustomed to the speed of the NFL, especially as it pertains to the passing game. He was able to get by on talent in college and could make up for a misstep or a misread. In the pros, there is no such luxury, so the advice he has received from Hutchinson has been invaluable.

"It was mostly pass-protection footwork," DeGeare said about where Hutchinson has helped him the most. "In college, you didn't really focus on it that much. But in the NFL, everybody is so good, so big and so strong. Every little thing can help out with those little details."

When Sunday rolls around, DeGeare knows he will be in uniform, but to what extent he plays is still up for debate. He knows that Hutch is tougher than a $2 steak, so his chances of playing aren't as high as it might be for another backup in a similar situation. Hutchinson is expecting to cast up his injured thumb and get on the field by any means necessary, despite not practicing this week. DeGeare would expect no less from his mentor. But, if the call to arms comes in, he said he will be willing, ready and able to fill the void.

"Hutch is a very tough guy and I know he's going to give it a shot (Sunday)," DeGeare said. "If something were to go bad, I'll be on the sideline ready to go and I will."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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