Herrera Wading Through Frustrating Year

Last year, guard Anthony Herrera battled back from a foot infection and became a starter. This year, he's barely had the opportunity to wear a uniform on Sundays. See what the third-year player had to say about his season and the impending free agency.

Vikings offensive guard Anthony Herrera can't help but shake his head when he considers the season that was which for him was the season that wasn't.

After spending his rookie season in 2004 on the practice squad, then fighting an aggressive foot infection to start the 2005 season, Herrera had worked his way up the depth chart to the point that by the end of the season he was starting games and building a reputation.

Remember this description of Herrera by then-Vikings head coach Mike Tice? "Anthony is going to hit and destroy anything in his path," Tice said after a game last November where Herrera made an impact.

Those types of praises have not been showered toward Herrera this season. After playing in 10 games and starting in six of those last year, Herrera has played in just two games this season. In fact, he has spent much of the year on the sidelines in civilian clothes getting deactivated most Sundays.

Naturally, Herrera's eyebrows are raised when he gets asked about his restricted free agency status that kicks in after the season.

"It's going to be very hard because everyone's going to want to know why I'm not playing or what's wrong," Herrera said. "There are going to be a lot of ifs and buts about what's going on with me, but that's just the way the business is.

"But I work hard, I do everything the right way, they can't say anything bad about me other than I'm really physical."

Vikings fans might have already forgotten the tenacity with which Herrera plays. Last year when he was playing, he didn't back down from several skirmishes. Yet whenever a Viking reached the end zone, Herrera was the first teammate downfield to offer congratulations even if that meant he would have to sprint 50 yards to the end zone after the quarterback completed the pass.

"His excitement and enthusiasm for everything he does – no matter what he does he's always jacked up and obnoxious – all it can do is bring up everyone around him… I'm pretty sure he ate paint chips as a kid," former teammate Cory Withrow said of Herrera.

That was 2005. This is 2006. Last year, Herrera took advantage of the opportunity. This year, head coach Brad Childress brought in veteran guards like Steve Hutchinson, a Pro Bowler, and Artis Hicks, who played under Childress in Philadelphia.

"The coaches make the decisions and we get paid to play and they get paid to coach," Herrera said. "It's hard not playing, but you have to stay humble. I've got some good players ahead of me, more older, experienced guys, so I have to take as much as I take from them and learn their techniques and watch how they do things. I have to take this situation and learn from it and keep working hard and staying hungry."

As a restricted free agent, Herrera knows he might have options.

"There are a lot of awful offensive lines in the league. There are always other opportunities out there," he said. "But I'm happy to be here. I like it up here. I love the coaches, I love the players, I love the attitude where everyone's trying to change it into a really positive atmosphere. I like it here and hope I can stay.

"But they get paid to make the decisions, so at the end of the year we'll see how it goes."

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