Hicks has been in this position before – ironically the last time was in the Vikings' first meeting last year with the Green Bay Packers, when McKinnie was dealing with food poisoning and Hicks moved from right guard – his last start there – to left tackle for the final drives of the game.
"This definitely isn't my first time out," Hicks said Thursday, talking publicly for the first time since McKinnie's suspension was announced. "I played tackle before, everybody knows that. It's just a matter of getting in that comfort zone and playing it again and playing it at a high level.
"As an offensive lineman, you have to be prepared and slide over another spot. That's part of the versatility component of it. As an offensive lineman, you want to be a good run blocker, a good pass blocker, but you want to be versatile. A situation like this, it comes up. This is one of my positive suits, I can slide over and play that position."
That versatility is part of the reason the Vikings made a draft-day trade to acquire Hicks in 2006. He started 14 games at right guard that season for the Vikings and the first four games there last year before Herrera took over. After spending 12 games of the 2005 season starting at left guard for the Eagles, Hicks moved out to left tackle for the final two game to replace an injured Todd Herremans.
Hicks said his experience on the left side of the offensive line makes him more comfortable there.
"That's just because of repetitions. I've pretty much played on the left side my whole career except for this year and last year – since I've been here. It's just a comfort zone. I just feel more comfortable there because I've been trained over there," he said. "It's not that big of an adjustment. The biggest thing is that guys are a little quicker over there, more athletic. The plays are pretty much the same. It's just the speed and quickness of the game."
Hicks seemed to see the irony that his last time playing left tackle for the Vikings was against Green Bay, where the Vikings will open the season Monday night at Lambeau Field. While the Packers are the defending NFC North champions, they are uncertain on the status of one of their top pass-rushing defensive ends, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who is listed on the injury report with a knee injury. While Biamila is no longer considered a starter – that designation belongs to Cullen Jenkins – the man they call KGB is still a pass-rushing specialist that has to be accounted for.
"Any chance you get to step on the field and play a good team like this, Monday night game, who doesn't get up for this? If you can't get up for this, you're in the wrong profession," Hicks said.
"I know who we've got on the schedule, but I haven't really started focusing on anybody except for Jenkins and KGB. That's pretty much it right now because those guys are pretty good guys and some of the premiere defensive ends in this league. You've got to prepare for those guys the right way."
That will likely involve some help for the left tackle, whether it would have been McKinnie or now Hicks. Of course, head coach Brad Childress wasn't about to give away that part of his game plan.
"I'm sure there will be a tight end over there sometimes. I'm sure there will a tight end on the other side. Maybe on both sides at times. Maybe none at times. That's a game-plan type of thing," he said.
Last year, Biamila had 9½ sacks, and he has 74 over his eight-year career. Jenkins, the starting right end that will be facing Hicks most often, had only one sack last year in 15 starts but had 6½ the previous years with only five starts.
Hick said his goal is to be similar to McKinnie, solid in both the running game and passing game.
"Bryant's a good all-around guy. He can run block, pass block and I just try to do the same thing. I try to be proficient at both," Hicks said.
It wasn't until Thursday that Hicks was willing to talk about his situation, knowing that the McKinnie suspension had finally been handed down.
"It was only the last few days, after everyone had seen what the action was from (NFL commissioner Roger) Goodell, then everybody starting coming with the questions," Hicks said. "Me personally, I just tried to distance myself from a lot of things. Just narrow it down to what's important and that's preparing for this game."
MADDEN ON FAVRE
Monday will be the first time since 1991 that quarterback Brett Favre will not be a member of the Packers when the Vikings travel to Lambeau. A strident Favre supporter, NBC broadcaster John Madden, weighed in on the subject with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I was more surprised when he retired than I was when he said he wanted to come back, because I never thought he'd retire. Then I was also surprised that they couldn't work something out there in Green Bay," Madden told the Journal-Sentinel before summarizing the issue pretty clearly.
"Who would you rather have, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre as your quarterback or Aaron Rodgers and two rookies? That to me would be easy. I mean I would (have) worked something out to keep him there."
Talking about Hutchinson, who, like Henderson, is quiet by nature, Childress said: "I don't think he'll ever be Dale Carnegie. He's quiet in his own way. A lot of that is by example. There is the E.F. Hutton way, where people lean in and listen when you talk."
The Vikings will also have "players of the week" from each of those units to accompany the captains for the coin toss before games. The captains will have a "C" on their jersey. All players will also have a patch honoring the late Gene Upshaw this season.