The drafting of Matt Kalil as the Vikings' left tackle "for the next decade" was met with much celebration and anticipation among the front office, coaches and players with the Minnesota Vikings.
The player most affected by the acquisition, former left tackle Charlie Johnson, reiterated to reporters the words offensive line coach Jeff Davidson heard from Johnson when discussing the possibility of moving to left guard.
"It was something that was discussed and I had no problem with it. Like I told Coach Davidson, Coach (Leslie) Frazier, anybody who asked me about it, I just want to win," Johnson said. "Last year was not very good. I wasn't used to that and I don't want it to happen again. So if they feel that this is the best thing to make our team better, then I'm all for it."
Johnson joined the Vikings at the start of training camp last year after the NFL lockout had ended. After two days of watching Bryant McKinnie on the physically-unable-to-perform list for being out of shape, the Vikings made the decision to release him and move forward with Johnson. The former Indianapolis Colt started all 16 games at left tackle, but whether it was the offensive line, protection breakdowns from other positions or a lack of timing from quarterbacks and receivers, Vikings quarterbacks took 49 sacks last year.
Being the "blindside protector," Johnson took some of the heat. Others obviously contributed to the problem, but Johnson said he is willing and able to play anywhere along the offensive line. He is now slated to move inside and fill the starting left guard spot vacated after the release of Steve Hutchinson.
"I think I have the skills that I can play anywhere, to be honest. Like I said, I spent my first couple years in the league doing everything," Johnson said. "It's something that's going to take a little bit of adjusting. Just because the past three years I've played tackle. But as far as having a problem with it, I don't have a problem with it. I feel like I'll be pretty good."
Davidson said the eventual move of Johnson to guard has been discussed since Week 3 last year. The drafting of Kalil allows that to happen, and it's a move that Davidson thinks better suits Johnson's skill set.
"I think he's more compact. He doesn't have quite the length that Matt has," Davidson said. "He is a good athlete so he was able to survive – the term I might use – at left tackle. He'll battle with the best of 'em. I'm not going to go through the individual grades, but he was more productive than I think a lot of people were giving him credit for."
Johnson said he feels "good" about a move to guard. He has already talked with Kalil and said he didn't have a negative reaction when the USC standouts was drafted No. 4 overall by the Vikings.
"It wasn't anything like, ‘Aw, man. Here it goes.' It was more of an ‘Alright, let's go. Let's get to work,'" Johnson said. "I came up here the next day and he was up here eating lunch and talking. And I sat down and talked with him for a minute and it was on from there. So it was no big deal.
"My skill set is for playing football. I wouldn't say that I have a skill set for guard or I have a skill set for tackle. I feel like I have a skill set to play offensive line and play football."
Said Davidson: "The fact that he has an opportunity to be able to use his athleticism as a puller, the smarts to be able to help our new left tackle, and transfer information from our center to that, he's going to help fill the bill at guard. He can play any position on the line if we asked him to, in all honesty. I just think if we had to pick one for him it's the offensive guard position. So this helps us in a lot of ways."
Now the transition will be two-fold: Even while he gets accustomed to playing guard once again and working right next to center John Sullivan for the first time, Johnson will also spend time trying to help Kalil get acclimated to playing tackle at the NFL level.
Johnson said there will be no animosity.
"Absolutely not. It was good to meet him. It was good to kind of talk and put an introduction out there and say, ‘Hey, this is who I am and all that stuff.' As far as animosity? There is no animosity," he said. "Look, I'm going to play. I feel that I'm one of the best five guys we have in our offensive line room. So I'm going to play. To me it doesn't matter where it's at.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Johnson takes pro's approach to move
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