Geoff Schwartz signed a one-year contract with the Vikings for an opportunity to win the starting job at right guard. At this point, he's just happy to get some limited playing time.
Schwartz was sidetracked from the starting competition after he suffered a sports hernia during training camp, likely in connection with the hip injury that sidelined him all of last season when he was with the Carolina Panthers.
Schwartz was a 16-game starter for the Panthers in 2010, but a hip injury forced him onto injured reserve before the 2011 season even started and most of his training camp, the entire preseason and the first three games of the regular season with the Vikings were wiped out this year because of the sports hernia. He returned to practice only 20 days after having surgery to repair the sports hernia, but Sunday was his first action back on the offensive line.
"I'd been down for so long, I was glad to just finally get back on the field. That was more of a concern for me than not playing right away," Schwartz said. "I was just happy to get back on the field, and I thought my second series was better than the first one, so going forward, I have things to work on. But I do have some film and we'll just go from there.
"It's just, finally healthy, able to get some film, get some snaps, they let me rotate a little bit."
Schwartz played two series for the Vikings – one in each half and 11 snaps in all – against the Washington Redskins, but it wasn't so much how many snaps he took, rather the fact that he was able to get accustomed to playing once again. The last time he played on offense in a regular-season game was Jan. 2, 2011, the final game of the 2010 season.
"In those plays, he did a good job, good enough where we feel comfortable if something were to happen we could get him in there," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "(There are) some other things we want to be able to see from him, but we're going to continue to evaluate it as we go forward."
Frazier said the plan is to continue to work Schwartz into the lineup. He might not get much more than the 11 snaps he took Sunday, but they want to continue to give him some action.
"We're going to stay on that program," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We feel good about both those guys (Schwartz and starter Brandon Fusco) playing right guard, so we're going to try to keep them fresh and get them production out of that position."
Schwartz is expecting to rotate only at right guard, where Fusco is the first-year starter, but Schwartz is also considered the backup right tackle and left guard.
Fusco doesn't appear to be in imminent danger of losing his starting job, but he knows improvement is needed.
"Just clean up on technique. I just have to continue to work and watch the film, study more," Fusco said. "It's sometimes I'm playing like it's a guessing game out there. I have to be more confident out there and just play my game, be aggressive and just do what I can do best."
Fusco saw action in only three games as a rookie after being drafted in the sixth round from Division II Slippery Rock. His playing time last year represented only 2.3 percent of the offensive snaps, so the learning curve has been steep.
Despite Schwartz working his way into a rotation, Fusco said he doesn't see that as a blow to his own pride.
"I don't see it as diminishing or anything like that. It's coach's decision and I think it's whatever they think is the right decision. I just have to go with it," Fusco said. "I just have to worry about myself, Brandon Fusco. Go out there and practice every day and just have a great attitude, get better, work on techniques and just worry about myself."
Schwartz doesn't believe the Vikings are trying to decide on whether or not re-sign him. (he doesn't see them looking that far ahead with this move). Instead, it's a chance to get him back in a feel for NFL game days in case injury dictates a larger role for him on the offensive line.
Rotating in for a series or two each game makes it hard to get a rhythm, but playing some is better than not playing all.
"It moves fast. It had been the past two preseasons and the past season, I didn't play," Schwartz said, a time period representing 27 regular season and preseason games. "Definitely the first few plays, you know, move a little faster. Especially when you play a 3-4 defense at guard – you have to block the linebackers. They're moving fast. The second series, I think I got into more of a rhythm and was able to do a little better than the first series.
"It's a start. I'm glad where I'm starting; it could be worse. It happens in football, you'll get beat. I'm pleased with the start."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Schwartz pleased to finally see action
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