Lining Up Depth

When he was the offensive line coach of the Vikings, Mike Tice had one of the best units in the league. Now that the Vikings have restocked the position with young talent, the depth is starting to fill in as well. Two young guns are shooting for a roster spot on the line. ... Plus, more camp notes and player workout information.

The careers of undrafted free agents are often on the line from the time they sign their first contract to the time they eventually retire — willingly or otherwise —years down the line if they are really fortunate.

It's an unheralded job being a long-shot free-agent rookie, and that life becomes even more anonymous when it's as an offensive lineman. Those are the cards being dealt to rookie Anthony Herrera and Alan Reuber.

So far, offensive line coach Steve Loney has been satisfied from what he's seen of his two undrafted free agents and fourth-round selection Nat Dorsey.

"Really all three of the new kids — Dorsey, Herrera, Reuber — when I think back two years when I came and the free agents we had or the young kids at that time, these guys are head and shoulders above where (the young talent was) two years ago," Loney said.

Offensive line is a position where depth is crucial, but it's only a matter the public talks about frequently when a lineman is sidelined by injury during the season. That didn't happen at all last season, as all five starters played all 16 games.

"Everybody talks about depth on the offensive line being a concern, but our depth now is better than it was two years ago. That's kind of a problem when you get five guys that start all 16 games — everybody wonders about the depth because the depth has not been used," Loney said. "I think we're deeper and stronger than any time I've been here."

The first line of backups is expected to be fourth-round draft choice Dorsey at tackle, Cory Withrow at center, Adam Haayer at guard and Lewis Kelly at center and guard. But then it's up to Adam Goldberg and this year's two undrafted rookies to try and find a place on the team.

Hererra was mentioned a few times as being one of the more talented of the 16 rookie free agents the Vikings signed in the hours following the 2004 draft. Since then, Herrera has been mentioned as having a good minicamp and is continuing to get good reviews from those who matter.

"Hererra was a guy I'm sure was on a lot of guys' draft boards. … When I saw we got into the seventh round and I had to get free agents of mine (to call), he was at the top of that list," Loney said of the former University of Tennessee standout.

For Reuber, a tackle from Texas A&M, the climb may be steeper. His fundamentals need more refinement and he will probably be a candidate for the practice squad with players like Dorsey, McKinnie and Mike Rosenthal in front of him.

The practice squad is intended for guys just like Reuber, players whom the coaches like but guys that also need time to develop their talents for the NFL game.

"Rueber is a guy that's got good feet. He's a little bit raw with speed coming off the edge. He's got to work technique. So to compare him to a guy that's been in (the NFL) four years, he's not there yet, but he's a guy I think could be a guard."

The Vikings hope neither Herrera nor Reuber are needed for active duty during the season, but they are a pair of solid undrafted rookie free agents looking to eventually get that chance by developing their talents over the summer and into their rookie seasons.

* The Vikings practiced without helmets Monday. They also moved practice up a little earlier to accommodate staff and players participating in a charity golf tournament. They will do the same this Thursday and next Tuesday.
* The Vikings worked out former University of Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq Monday. Abdul-Khaliq wore a red No. 7 jersey, participated in throwing drills and spent time with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan after practice.
* Who says Antoine Winfield doesn't have good hands? The cornerback has been given that rap by some as an explanation for only having six interceptions in five seasons. However, Winfield intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone in Friday's practice and stepped in front of Randy Moss to bat down a pass on Monday. A short while later, Winfield had a chance at another interception but was pushed by the offensive player.
* Vikings linebackers Mike Nattiel and E.J. Henderson, arrested over the weekend for assault outside a downtown Minneapolis nightclub, were both participating in practice. In fact, Henderson was practicing during full-team drills for the first time since having surgery to repair a meniscus he tore during minicamp in early May.
* Rookie Dontarrious Thomas appears to be receiving more playing time with the starting defense in front of Nattiel.
* What a difference a couple of years makes. During his rookie minicamp in 2002, first-round draft pick Bryant McKinnie struggled with conditioning drills. On Monday, he led the linemen during portions of the post-practice running.
* Former Vikings wide receiver Leo Lewis is holding his junior and senior football academies for ages 8 to 18 from July 6-9 at Macalester College in St. Paul. Lewis' academies combine football skills with life skills for youth. For more information, call 952-886-3399 or go online to
* The Tice Brothers' Football Camp will be June 20-24 at the University of St. Thomas. It is also geared for kids ages 8 to 18. For more information on the Tice camp, call 1-800-555-0801 or go online to

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