The Minnesota Vikings had a late first-round draft grade on the University of Mississippi's Marcus Johnson and were able to snag him in the second round. At the time, the Vikings weren't completely sure where he'd fit in. Four months later, little has changed.
The Vikings still like what Johnson offers, which is massive size – 6-foot-6 and 321 pounds – and a willingness to learn, but they still aren't completely sure where Johnson fits in.
"I've just been all over the place," Johnson said. "My thing is to just accept whatever they throw at me. Just go out and do the best that I possibly can and be great at it."
Johnson began filling in for Mike Rosenthal at right tackle while he recovered from foot surgery in minicamp. Then, as the spring progressed, and so did Rosenthal's recovery, Johnson began to see more time at guard. Once training camp began and the pads went on, Johnson worked at right tackle again until the coaching staff gained enough confidence in Rosenthal's recovery.
Now Johnson is back spending the majority of his time at left guard.
Ideally, a rookie would love to come to camp and learn one position well before being strapped with the responsibilities involved with other positions. Johnson is no different.
"Of course, but you just have to take what they give you. Beggars can't be choosers; that's what I've always been taught," he said. "Whatever they throw at me, I'm just going to try my best to be perfect at it."
Another twist was thrown into the offensive line equation on Monday when right guard Chris Liwienski sprained his shoulder. That precipitated left guard Adam Goldberg moving to right guard for Tuesday's practices, with Johnson the main force at left guard. Left guard, right tackle – it doesn't seem to matter much to Johnson.
"An offensive lineman's job is to defeat the guy he's assigned to. That's the first and primary job of what we have to do. Whether it's left guard, right tackle, center, wherever, as long as I defeat the guy that I'm assigned to, that's what I need to do," he said.
"Whether you play inside or outside, you've got your positives and your negatives."
He hasn't been thrown into the center mix yet and doesn't seem to have the build of a center, but, hey, give it time. Pro Bowl center Matt Birk still isn't all the way back from offseason hip surgery, back center Cory Withrow drew the public criticism of head coach Mike Tice after Friday's preseason opener and third-string center Anthony Herrera has been in the hospital with an infection in his leg. OK, another change of address to center for Johnson isn't likely. He has enough on his plate right now.
"I'm a rookie and I'm still learning. I'm still trying to figure out the playbook and everything," he said. "Of course, mentally it's wearing on me right now. For me to learn left guard and the right tackle position, I don't know where I'm going to be from day to day."
The most likely landing spot for Johnson is at left guard. Adam Goldberg was named the starter there to start the offseason. Goldberg made six starts last year at right tackle filling in for Rosenthal, and Goldberg is also making the switch inside. Once Chris Liwienski returns to action in the coming days, Goldberg and Johnson are expected to resume their battle for the starting left guard spot.
If Goldberg's experience wins out over Johnson's long-term potential this year, then Johnson could be a valuable utility backup in 2005. Just don't ask him where he'll end up.
"I haven't the slight idea, but wherever they put me, that's what I'm willing to do," he said.
Johnson Rolls With The Positional Punches
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