Will Dixon's Challenger Emerge?

An aging David Dixon has the Vikings thinking about his long-term status, according to one coach. They could go looking for a developmental prospect this weekend to challenge Dixon in the coming year.

When Vikings offensive line coach Steve Loney talks about the makeup of the line for the 2003 season, he quickly rattles off the names of starters Chris Liwienski (left guard), Matt Birk (center), Bryant McKinnie (left tackle) and Mike Rosenthal (right tackle). The name of right guard David Dixon does not come as quickly.

While it appears Dixon will enter training camp as the starter, there is little question the 10-year veteran will have to impress Loney and Mike Tice, who was the Vikings' offensive line coach before being elevated to the head job.

"I don't know if make or break," is the right term for Dixon's status, Loney said. "I want to give (Dixon) the proper respect because he has played a lot of years and given a lot of good snaps to the Minnesota Vikings, but at some point and time every guy's career comes to the end.

"For me, I talk in terms of make or break for let's say a guy that is in his fourth year and has been struggling. I wouldn't want to say make or break for Dave Dixon. I want to say that Dave, due to the number of years he has been in the league, you have to be wise in making sure that you can fill in for a person … depending on whether that's one or two years that a guy has left in his career. You have to make sure that either that or (in case of) injuries that you can solidly fill that position, and I think we are getting to that."

The Vikings examined putting a weight clause in Dixon's contract this off-season. Dixon, whose weight has been a long-time concern of the organization, was listed at 6-5 and 359 pounds at the end of last season.

"I would say that's twofold," Loney said when asked about Dixon's weight. "Really it's the quickness of his feet that Dave has got to continually stay on top of. Now, the weight is the cause for things to slow down because as you carry too much weight and you can't move as well and some of those things. That's the issue that Dave is aware of and has talked to Mike (Tice) about.

"That is something that has always been a concern with Dave. He has got to stay on top of it. He has to be concerned about it or his weight gets out way too much. That's nothing new to Dave Dixon. That's something he has dealt with for a long time. But I think it's moving his feet is the thing he has to work to improve, and keeping his weight under control can help him do that, along with staying healthy. You put 340 pounds on those joints and it takes its toll."

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