Mike Harris had never played or practiced at guard before. At least not since his Pop Warner days.
Harris was supposed to be a backup for the Vikings. At tackle.
But when two offensive linemen – center John Sullivan and guard Vladimir Ducasse – went out with injury on the same play Sunday againg the Buffalo Bills, Harris was forced into duty at right guard for Ducasse.
“I was just shocked seeing both our guys going down and we didn’t even call timeout or nothing,” Harris said. “I just had to run in and coach was like, ‘Go play right guard’ and I’m like, ‘What?’ I had never done it in my whole life. But I had fun. I haven’t played really since the preseason, but it was cool just to be out there with my guys and just playing hard for the team.”
In six previous games, Harris had played only one snap on offense, as an injury replacement for right tackle Phil Loadholt.
Normally, the plan would have been for 10-year veteran Joe Berger to take over for Ducasse. But Berger is also the backup center and the Vikings had only two backup offensive linemen active for Sunday’s game. Berger had to take over at center for Sullivan, leaving Harris in the unfamiliar and, at least initially, uncomfortable position at guard.
Harris had just signed with the Vikings on Aug. 31 after they claimed him on waivers from the San Diego Chargers, where he gained experience in Norv Turner’s system. The playing guard part, however, was all new to him.
“I kind of like it. I like being inside. At tackle you’re out there on an island, but at guard there’s a lot of responsibility because you’ve got to recognize defenses. And getting up to linebackers in the running game, that’s something I need to improve on,” he said. “Just having good sight of what’s going to happen on the defense and playing fast.”
He figured he was about 10 years old the last time he played guard, so the adjustment period was naturally tough on him.
“I was asking a lot of questions on the field at the time. But as the game went on I got real comfortable and just competed,” he said. “Just played tough and unfortunately we didn’t have enough to win, but I look forward to this week and being able to improve.”
Harris said he had never seen two offensive linemen injured on the same play, but with Austin Wentworth and rookie David Yankey both inactive for the game, he was thrown into the fire against one of the NFL’s best defensive lines, especially at the defensive tackle position, where Harris was taking on Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams.
Sullivan was going through the concussion protocol on Monday and his status for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is very much up in the air. The same is true with Ducasse, who was scheduled to have an MRI on his knee.
That means Harris could be called into duty once again, although Wentworth is likely to be active, too, if either Sullivan or Ducasse can’t play Sunday.
“We’ll evaluate all of that as we get going here. So like I said before, part of my job is to continually look at how we can do things,” Zimmer said. “And I’m not opposed to making any changes. That doesn’t mean we’re going to. But we have to look, if we make a change, what are the options that we have with that change and what is the best option as we go forward? But we’ve got to continue to get better in that area, with the offensive line – actually in a lot of areas.”
Harris said he would be ready no matter where the coaches needed him. Even though he wasn’t expecting the sudden position change on Sunday, he had to be thrown into for guard duty, ready or not.
Harris gets quick immersion at guard
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