Jon Dahlin/Viking Update

Minnesota Vikings tackle T.J. Clemmings: Challenge is in the past

T.J. Clemmings said his most challenging days are behind him and he’s getting the chance to show it.

T.J. Clemmings went from backup guard in the Minnesota Vikings' practices last year to backup tackle to starting tackle in the preseason after Phil Loadholt tore his Achilles tendon.

This year, Clemmings has stayed at tackle, but there’s a new element that challenged him this spring. He’s been working at both left and right tackle, and with Loadholt deciding to retire last week, Clemmings is now seeing more time at right tackle behind Andre Smith and getting a chance to show what he can do with the starting unit.

But for a player that went from the defensive line in his first two years of college to the offensive line his second two years, making position adjustments in the NFL has been a staple for him so far.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge. It’s being able to do both spots, play both spots and just do the best I can at it,” Clemmings said. “It’s not really a challenge. The challenging part is already passed, I would say. Now it’s just playing football.”

Although he took many of his spring reps at left tackle, the start of training camp without Loadholt might give him a chance to battle for the starting spot at right tackle, the position he held down throughout last year in emergency duty in place of Loadholt.

“Oh, yeah. That’s why I’m here. That’s why we’re here at camp. Everybody should be trying to compete for a starting job,” he said. “That’s what I’m here to do and we’ll see how it all pans out.”

While he was with the second-team offense on Friday, he took first-team reps during Saturday morning’s walk-through.

But the Vikings plan to move him between right and left tackle, head coach Mike Zimmer said.

“I have to be ready to be anywhere. That’s what camp is about, trying to find the best spots and the right spots or the right fits, I would say, for each player. I’m expected to be on both sides at some point.”

If he doesn’t earn the starting spot – right now Smith appears to be in the lead for that role – Clemmings’ versatility is likely to have him active on game days as a backup for both Smith and left tackle Matt Kalil.

“The difference really would be the simple changes in plays, certain plays,” Clemmings said. “Some things a right tackle has to do better than a left. I would say that would be it.”

Zimmer said he hopes to have a starting offensive line in place “as soon as possible,” but he also wants to give the viable options a chance to prove themselves.

“It may be this week, it may be next week. I don’t know. It’s really about when we’ve made the decision that this is how we want it to go,” Zimmer said on Friday. “We still have some combinations we want to look at. That is not the set line up by any chance or imagination.”


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