The Minnesota Vikings have done what they set out to do this offseason and that is to create competition along the offensive line. They will now have four players competing for the right tackle spot, all of who have experience starting.
One of those players is the recently-signed Andre Smith. At this point in time he is probably viewed as the favorite to earn the starting job, but he knows that it is not guaranteed. He spoke of the respect he has for Phil Loadholt in a conference call on Friday and said he is taking nothing for granted.
“I expect to come in and compete,” Smith said. “They have some really good linemen there right now and I just need to come in and compete for a starting position on the offensive line.”
Even though he is expected to play right tackle, he did not leave out the possibility of playing elsewhere on the offensive line, summing it up to if the coaches tell him to play another position he will be more than willing.
“I’ve always been taught, ‘The more you can do, the more possibilities of you staying around,’” he said. “So if they ask me to play another position I’m all for it, whatever it is.”
Smith visited the Vikings last weekend, but eventually left without having a deal in place. There was speculation that he would end up signing elsewhere since he left, but in the end he ended up coming back. And he said that there were many reasons why he decided to end up signing with the Vikings.
He enjoyed the ownership and general manager Rick Spielman, the fact the Vikings have a good team and are ready to win, but most of all the coaching staff. Head coach Mike Zimmer was apart of the Cincinnati Bengals organization with Smith from 2009-13. Even though Zimmer was the defensive coordinator and Smith played on the offensive line the two still had a very good relationship.
Smith was a first-round pick in 2009 and did not have a good start to his career. He struggled often and eventually had the label of “bust” surrounding his name. Apparently Zimmer was one of the people who really helped Smith through those tough times and got him back on the right track.
“I actually got to talk to Coach Zimmer quite a few times early on in my career,” Smith said. “He was like a father figure, always telling me to work hard, to keep your head down, don’t pay attention to the media and whatever they’re saying. He knows the kind of football player I am and he saw the growth in me as a man – from my younger years to maturing into the player I am now.”
Another contributing factor of Smith’s signing with the Vikings is having the opportunity to block for a player like Adrian Peterson. When his career is over, Peterson is likely going to be considered one of the best running backs to ever play the game, and being able to block for a player like that is can be exciting for an offensive lineman.
“Just to have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, those one-, two-, three-second blocks can turn into a first down,” he said. “It’s just something to be excited of, when you’re a blocker, to have one of the greatest running backs ever in the backfield and whatever you do he’s going to make you right.”
The Vikings only signed Smith to a one-year deal, but he does not feel any more motivated because of it. He just wants to come in, work hard, earn a starting spot and bring his best effort every Sunday for his teammates and the fans.