With an opening at left guard, the Minnesota Vikings are looking at a player that hasn’t played guard before as one of the possibilities.
Rookie T.J. Clemmings, who fell on draft weekend as a projected late first-round or early second-round pick to the fourth round, spent time in his first practice session at rookie minicamp trying to show what he could do at guard.
It wasn’t a complete surprise to the University of Pittsburgh alumnus who played two years on the defensive line before switching to offensive tackle. When Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson put Clemmings through a private workout prior to the draft, he said that would be a possibility.
“We did mostly tackle stuff (at the workout), but even then he said, ‘Listen, if you ever came to the Vikings we’d probably throw you in there at guard and see how it turned out,’” Clemmings said after a Friday morning walk-through. “I’m here and they threw me at guard.”
The move isn’t a complete surprise since he is considered the most talented rookie on the offensive line, but without any prior experience there it’s likely an explorative move for now.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be moved around. I’ve been playing guard today, guard and tackle, just getting reps and getting a feel at both positions is my plan, just to be ready to play at guard or tackle, wherever they want me to play or need me to play,” he said.
In his first practice, he was used solely on the right side, playing both guard and tackle, so he can’t immediately be considered the frontrunner to replace Charlie Johnson, who remains a free agent, at left guard.
Still, Clemmings said he knows of the opening there.
“I’m aware of it and I’m going to compete for a job, but first I’ve got to learn the plays and get through the playbook and really just learn,” he said. “At this point right now, I’m not worried about what spot is open. You’re not going to make it on the field if you don’t know what to do, so my main concern right now and goal is to really learn the playbook and learn what coach needs me to know.”
At this point, Clemmings figures it will take at least a few weeks for him to feel comfortable with the offense, but one thing he knows is that the apparent foot injury discovered at the NFL Scouting Combine isn’t an issue for him and never has been.
Head coach Mike Zimmer said Clemmings and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman were joking about the injury prior to Friday’s practice.
“We were joking around with it a little bit because I had no idea, but I’m out here running around like I have been through all my testing, everything was perfectly fine and I felt great. I have no issues or concerns about it,” Clemmings said.
“I don’t feel anything. People ask me, ‘What foot is it?’ I’m like, I’ve got to look down and try to remember.”
For the record, “it’s supposed to be” his right foot, but he has never felt it give him a problem so for now it’s considered a non-issue.
Clemmings said he realized about a week before the draft that NFL teams were starting to have concerns with his foot. He found out just how much of a concern after the first and second rounds passed without him being selected.
Then came the third round and two days passing with still no NFL team to call home.
“You’ve got to be prepared for anything. Just being part of the draft was great and I will always remember that, but I believe I’m at the right team, where I’m supposed to be with the right coaching staff and the right teammates. At this point it’s nothing to be all, man, somebody said something about my foot or anything like that,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here and happy to be back to football.”
Clemmings a Vikings option at guard
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