Herrera Trying to Learn Lesson from the Left

Vikings guard Anthony Herrera will likely be in a backup role this year if Artis Hicks can hang onto the starting job he was given after being acquired in a trade. But Herrera is still trying to learn from the left side of the offensive line and apply those standards to the less-heralded right side.

Anthony Herrera is a straight shooter. He'll say what he likes and dislikes, but now he's definitely focused on his continued improvement and has high goals set.

And now he has an opportunity to learn from one of the best guards in the league every day in practice and hope those observations can be applied in his quest to become a Pro Bowl player. That may sound like hyperbole coming from a third-year undrafted player who was bumped down the depth chart by the new coaching staff when they traded for the more experienced Artis Hicks. Even though Herrera entered the offseason as the starter, he never felt like he truly entrenched his role with the team.

"I still don't see myself as established. I don't consider myself established until I reach the Pro Bowl. That's my goal," he said. "You've got to play with a chip on your shoulder in this league. Every man is trying to take your job."

How true those April words would turn out to be only a few weeks after they were uttered. Herrera was replaced by a player more experienced and more familiar with the schemes employed by head coach Brad Childress and the Vikings' new West Coast offense.

Admittedly, there some sense of starting over with the new coaching staff.

"There are certain things that they're changing, but they're trying to make it easier for us and put in a little bit of last year's system and having some new stuff this year," Herrera said. "They're just a little bit more aggressive this year. The coaches are just a little bit more aggressive – that's always a good thing for a lineman. Our tendency is to be aggressive."

Herrera has never had a problem with that, often being told to tone down his style of play last year. But this year, with what he deemed a good mix of man and zone blocking, Herrera will look to the left side of the line to emulate the play of All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson.

"I think that's a good thing that the left side is so good because the right side is going to try hard to catch up to them," Herrera said. "Nobody wants to hear you talking about the other side. That's a strong side and there's a lot we can learn from them. … I'm looking at Hutch to see what he's doing because that's going to make me better."

Not surprisingly, Herrera plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder because he wasn't drafted in 2005, and he puts some of the blame on his former coaches at Tennessee.

"I had some problems at Tennessee. The coaching staff didn't like me and I didn't like them. They handled the draft the way they wanted to handle it and they spoke badly of me. I knew I could make it and that's what I did," he said.

Indeed. Herrera not only made the 53-man roster last season – no small accomplishment for an undrafted rookie a year early – he eventually became the starter for the final six games after proving himself in practice for much of the first half of the season.

And now he will be asked to swallow his pride once again, as the veteran Hicks assumes the top spot on the depth chart at right guard to start training camp. For Herrera, that likely will just serve as more motivation to continue his ascent as a player and his personal quest of one day becoming a Pro Bowl player.

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