Next up: Charlie Johnson talks expectations

Only hours before the Vikings released Bryant McKinnie, the man that will likely replace him, Charlie Johnson, still hadn't been able to practice with the team. Johnson talked out the transition to the Vikings, how comfortable he feels at guard and tackle and his expectations.

Time changes everything, and it didn't take much time for Charlie Johnson's world to change – twice in one week.

On Sunday, Johnson was an unrestricted free agent, likely still holding out hope that the Indianapolis Colts would re-sign him. By Monday, he was a Minnesota Viking that many observers expected to be a backup or compete for a job at right guard. In a matter of hours and with the release of Bryant McKinnie, Johnson becomes the front-runner to grab hold of the starting left tackle spot.

Only a few hours before McKinnie's release, Johnson was promoting the idea that he could learn a new offense and get accustomed to playing alongside new teammates at a comfortable pace.

"My expectations are to come in and kind of assimilate to this offense, just kind of do whatever they ask, whether that's to play tackle or whether that's to play guard – whatever the plan is. That's just kind of what I'm here to do," Johnson said. "It's a great opportunity for me. It's a new chance, a new offense and all that. It's a great opportunity and I'm just going to do whatever I'm going to have to do."

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and the front office called a quick audible that will likely leave the 6-foot-4, 305-pound newcomer having to shuffle his feet and his approach as soon as he is eligible to practice on Thursday (he can't practice until then because he signed a new contract as a free-agent acquisition).

"I'm going to come and compete. I feel like that's what they brought me in for was to come in and compete and try to get one of those five spots on the line," he said. "I'm not going to sit back and try to bide my time and wait. I'm going to come in and compete and see what happens."

Johnson is likely to become the frontrunner as soon as the whistle blows Thursday in the Vikings' first full-pads practice. In 74 games with the Colts, he has 54 starts, many of them at left tackle in Indianapolis. But, despite that, some observers think his more natural position is guard.

"It's funny how many sofa experts there are out there. It never mattered to me. I feel like I can do both. I feel like I can do both well. I don't worry about what people think about, ‘Well, he should be here or he should be there. I just go out there and play and whatever they tell me to do, I just go out and do," Johnson said.

"I would say early on, [when I] first came into the league, I felt natural at tackle because that's what I had played. Once I started doing guard, I spent a year or year and a half at guard, and I've played tackle. I feel I can do each one."

Considering the team's other options, Johnson has to be considered the front-runner to take over after the sudden release of McKinnie, who started training camp on the non-football injury list before the Vikings decided to cut ties with him and his $4.9 million base salary.

With Johnson and fellow offensive line free-agent signee Scott Kooistra forced to sit out the first three days of training camp, the Vikings had spent Monday and Tuesday working Thomas Welch and DeMarcus Love at left tackle. Welch spent the first 13 games of last season on the practice squad and Love was a sixth-round pick in April.

Besides a new scheme and new teammates, Johnson is also going to have to get used to new techniques being taught by the team's new offensive line coach, Jeff Davidson.

"It's going to be a little bit of a transition, but at the end of the day it's football," Johnson said. "If you're running the ball, you still have to come off the ball and block. Pass sets are pass sets. There's going to be a little change-up, but there's a lot of carry-over also."

Johnson said the Colts didn't make much of a push to re-sign him.

"It's a very different situation. I guess the words they were saying to me were different than their actions, but that's in the past," he said. "That situation worked itself out and I'm here and I couldn't think of a better place to be."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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