Fusco finds out how fast NFL changes

Vikings guard Brandon Fusco isn't discussed as much as the other new starter on the Vikings offensive line, Matt Kalil, but Fusco was also making his first NFL start last Sunday. This week, he'll have another first-time experience in front of him.

Much of the media focus on the Vikings offensive line since the start of training camp has centered around first-round draft pick Matt Kalil. Drafted to be a bookend left tackle for the next decade, he has dominated the attention being given by media and fans alike.

But, on the other side of the line, there is another new starter in right guard Brandon Fusco. He made his first NFL start last Sunday with much less fanfare than Kalil, but came away from the experience feeling he held his own and is feeling better every day about his role on the team.

"I thought, at far as a first start goes, it went pretty well," Fusco said. "There are some plays I'd like to have back, but I just have to learn from my mistakes and get better this week. I thought as a group, we all worked well together and did a pretty good job overall."

As a rookie last year, Fusco said he never really felt comfortable in his role. A center at small-college Slippery Rock, he was moved to guard when training camp opened. A year later, he said it's hard to imagine how green he was as a rookie and how much he had to learn. He said being around players like John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt and Charlie Johnson during the offseason program was invaluable to his learning curve.

"It's a completely different feeling now as far as knowing the offense and what my assignments are," Fusco said. "Last year everything seemed to be coming at me 100 miles per hours after the lockout. With the OTAs and the offseason program, being able to work with Sully and Phil and Charlie, being able to work on techniques and watching more film, the game has slowed down a lot for me. I've caught up with everything. I have more knowledge of the game of football with schemes and blitzes and all of that. I feel great this year."

Fusco's journey to the starting lineup didn't come easy. He knew his chance to make the starting lineup was coming when the Vikings got rid of starting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera. But, one of the few free agent signings the Vikings made this offseason was to sign guard Geoff Schwartz of the Carolina Panthers. When the team drafted Kalil, it was announced that Johnson would move to left guard, leaving just one spot open – at right guard.

It could have been easy for Fusco to assume he would once again be a backup. With only three previous games in which he was on the game day roster, he felt that Schwartz had the upper hand in the competition, but, instead of getting down, bringing in the free agent only increased Fusco's desire to work harder every day and learn as much as he could about the Vikings offense.

"I think that really pushed me," Fusco said. "I didn't want to be handed the job because we didn't have another option. He gave me great competition. When Schwartz went down to an injury in training camp, I knew it was my job to lose. I had a lot of pressure on my back to get the job done. I didn't want to disappoint everyone else because this is a veteran group."

Fusco passed his first test against Jacksonville. This week comes Indianapolis, which is converting to a 3-4 defense. It will be Fusco's first opportunity to play a regular-season game against a 3-4 team, but he said that his offseason work and film study has helped him prepare for what he's going to see live for the first time.

"There's a lot more room you have to cover when play a 3-4 team," Fusco said. "You're in space a lot more and you have to make those adjustments. There is a pretty big difference preparing for a 3-4 defense because they bring guys more on blitzes and from different angles, but we've prepared to go against both and we will be ready for it."

Fusco said the process of winning the starting job has been a long and satisfying one, but added that now the pressure is turned up even higher because winning a starting job is one thing. Keeping it is another.

"In the NFL, you're only as good as your last game," Fusco said. "You always have to improve yourself because there are always guys ready to take your spot if you don't get the job done. It happens all the time. When I came here last year, I figured I would be behind Hutch and Herrera for a while. A year later, both of them are gone and I'm in the starting lineup. Things can change fast in this league, so I'm focused on getting better every week and make sure I do everything to keep my spot in the lineup."


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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A center at small-college Slippery Rock, he was moved to guard when training camp opened. A year later, he said it's hard to imagine how green he was as a rookie and how much he had to learn. He said being around players like John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt and Charlie Johnson during the offseason program was invaluable to his learning curve. \"It's a completely different feeling now as far as knowing the offense and what my assignments are,\" Fusco said. \"Last year everything seemed to be coming at me 100 miles per hours after the lockout. With the OTAs and the offseason program, being able to work with Sully and Phil and Charlie, being able to work on techniques and watching more film, the game has slowed down a lot for me. I've caught up with everything. I have more knowledge of the game of football with schemes and blitzes and all of that. I feel great this year.\" Fusco's journey to the starting lineup didn't come easy. He knew his chance to make the starting lineup was coming when the Vikings got rid of starting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera. But, one of the few free agent signings the Vikings made this offseason was to sign guard Geoff Schwartz of the Carolina Panthers. When the team drafted Kalil, it was announced that Johnson would move to left guard, leaving just one spot open – at right guard. It could have been easy for Fusco to assume he would once again be a backup. With only three previous games in which he was on the game day roster, he felt that Schwartz had the upper hand in the competition, but, instead of getting down, bringing in the free agent only increased Fusco's desire to work harder every day and learn as much as he could about the Vikings offense. \"I think that really pushed me,\" Fusco said. \"I didn't want to be handed the job because we didn't have another option. He gave me great competition. 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