Trench Men To See Extended Time

While a few specific players will miss Saturday's game because of lingering or recent injuries, head coach Mike Tice is giving kudos to his offensive line -- but that doesn't mean they'll be getting any favors in Saturday's preseason opener.

The Minnesota Vikings offensive line is set — there are no battles for a starting position.

Now, only time is keeping the unit from achieving its potential.

"All the right guys are in the right places," guard Chris Liwienski said. "The more we play together, the better we'll get."

Coach Mike Tice said that the offensive line will probably play more than any other first-string unit, simply to give the players more time to work together and develop chemistry.

"Certainly, (the offensive line) is getting better every day," Tice said. "I like where they're at."

The Vikings line has undergone several changes over the last five seasons as free agency and Korey Stringer's death have forced the team to plug in several new members.

Last year's No. 1 pick, Bryant McKinnie, has established himself at left tackle, and Tice said earlier in the week that McKinnie has the potential to be a better lineman than former Vikings great Randall McDaniel.

Free agent Matt Rosenthal was signed to play right tackle, which allowed the Vikings to move Liwienski to left guard. Center Matt Birk and right guard David Dixon are back at their familiar spots, giving the Vikings a line that averages about 6-foot-6 and nearly 330 pounds.

"I like to play the offensive linemen a little longer than everyone else (in preseason games) because they need cohesion," said Tice, a former offensive line coach. "Those big guys need work in game situations, there's no substitute for that."

* The Vikings released fullback Jeremy Allen and signed rookie Matt Huebner of St. Cloud State. Huebner was on the Vikings roster for minicamp. Tice said he plans to sign two tight ends after Saturday's preseason game against Jacksonville because of injuries. Jim Kleinsasser is going to take two weeks off becuase of plantar fasciitis, and Byron Chamberlian is expecting to be suspended for the first four games of the season because he tested positive for ephedra. Rookie Steve Farmer suffered an ACL tear in his left knee Thursday, and Tice said a decision on surgery will be made in the next week.

* In addition to Kleinsasser and Farmer, linebacker Raonall Smith and cornerback Eric Kelly will both miss the Jacksonville game with hamstring injuries.

* Tice said his goal for Saturday is "to play winning football at all levels … the first team, second team, third team. If we're going to carry the momentum over and we're go to show our fans that we're going to play outstanding football at the Metrodome, it has to start with Jacksonville."

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