Birk, Withrow Prepared For Change

Should the Vikings feel the need to switch All-Pro center Matt Birk to left tackle next week, both he and backup center Cory Withrow say they are ready and willing.


Matt Birk might be taking one for the team.

With first-round pick Bryant McKinnie holding out, Birk could be shifted from center to left tackle. Cory Withrow would then take over for Birk, who has been named to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons.

It's speculation at this point but something that has apparently been considered.

McKinnie was to enter training camp as the starting left tackle, but his prolonged holdout has caused the coaching staff to make other plans. Even when McKinnie does sign, he will be too far behind to immediately step in as the starter.

After looking at the free agents available, the decision was made to consider shifting Birk. He has experience at left tackle, having played the position at Harvard. He also spent time on the left side during his first two seasons with the Vikings when he was a reserve.

The coaching staff did not have much too say about the move early this week, but Birk worked at left tackle for three plays during position drills on Tuesday morning. If the Vikings move ahead with this plan, Birk could see action at the spot by the Sept. 23 preseason game against Tennessee.

"I took some snaps out there, doing one-on-ones and some assignment stuff out there," Birk said. "Coach had talked to me about the move [Monday]. I took some reps and kind of got my feet wet a little bit. It was nothing too extensive. As the days go on I'll probably get more and more work. Right now, I'm just trying to keep it really simple and basically go from there. I don't want to be overwhelmed."

Withrow, who coach Mike Tice said "should be starting," has had two stints with the Vikings since 1998. He started for the first time in his career last season against Pittsburgh when he subbed for the injured David Dixon at right guard.

Withrow's name frequently came up in trade rumors last year because other teams assumed he was stuck behind Birk. But thanks to McKinnie's holdout that might no longer be the case.

"Any time you get a potential opportunity to get on the field it's exciting," Withrow said. "I've prepared myself for it, and if something were to happen like that it would be great. Whether or not Birk wants to do that … it's a tough situation that I think Matt is in, too."

Birk, however, said he will do whatever the coaching staff asks of him.

"If that's what the team needs me to do … last year with everything that happened to us, guys were getting moved around so much," Birk said. "For about a month there I think we had a different starting lineup every week. It would be kind of selfish for me not to be willing to move to left tackle. Up front, we just want five guys out there that we can win with. Cory Withrow is more than capable at center. Hopefully, I can go out there and get the job done at left tackle."

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