Guard Whittle Sees Positives in Staying

Unrestricted free-agent guard Jason Whittle is a veteran who has been around the free-agent block a time or two, but he see positives in remaining part of the Vikings' plan for 2007.

After playing seven years with the New York Giants—two stints sandwiched around a season in Tampa Bay—guard Jason Whittle played in all 16 games for the Vikings while starting two of them this season. Durability will not be a concern with Whittle. Outside of his rookie season, Whittle has played in 14 or more games every year, including six 16-game campaigns.

And Whittle, who can play both center and guard, likes the direction the Vikings are going.

"I think we're going in the right direction," he said. "The organization's dedicated to winning and they're bringing guys in who want to win. Although the season didn't go they way any of us hoped, it is the first year with a new coach. There are some things to build on. It's a great group of guys here."

With the exception of Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, the entire offensive line turned over from the 2005 season. The left side now appears stable with Steve Hutchinson at guard and McKinnie at tackle. Pro Bowler Matt Birk is solid at center, too. But the questions are on the right side of the line, where the Vikings need players to emerge at both guard and tackle.

"As an offensive line, we need to play more consistent," Whittle said. "As an offense, in general, we need to play more consistent and that never happened this year. Hopefully, this offseason we can jell a little more and work on the things we need to get it done. Sometimes jelling happens on an offensive line quicker than other times. Sometimes it takes a little while to get in sync. Hopefully, we'll get it straightened out."

Whittle would like to remain and be part of the solution.

"Ideally, I'd be here," he said. "When they brought me in I figured I would have a limited role. Obviously, you want to start and you want to compete, but I understand my role here and the only thing I can do is go out there and help my team by doing whatever is possible."

If the Vikings choose not to retain Whittle's services it won't be due to too high of a price tag. He signed a one-year contract to come to the Vikings, and is one of those players who knows his role. Whether that role continues with the Vikings is to be determined.

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