Lurtsema's Reaction: OTA impressions

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema continues to have his opinions shaped by what he sees during offseason practices. Lurtsema talked about the rookies and other young players, including positions that aren't impressing him as much. He also talked about the Antoine Winfield situation and the value placed on jersey numbers.

VU: What are your impressions of the rookies from what you saw in Thursday's OTA session?

BL: I know everybody is saying what I'm about to say, but Phil Loadholt is a load. That kid, he carries it. You can watch his technique and it's like a twin brother of Big Mac (Bryant McKinnie). Their body language is the same. They'll come up with some nickname – the Twin Towers or the Twin Cities Tackles – but they are identical in some of their movements. His feet are a lot lighter than what you'd think for his size. When you're playing on the right side you have to be a little stronger because your lighter pass rusher comes in from the left side of the offense. You have to have a little different technique between the two of them. Right now, with the defense supposedly ahead of the offense, I think he's handled it really well.

VU: Do you think he's basically being given this right tackle position? Is there much competition for it from what you've seen?

BL: It's blatantly obvious that it's his to lose. They are handing the job to him. They like his size and they like everything about him. They're trying to get as much of a look at him as possible in these camps. It's like at center with John Sullivan. I'd keep him there all the time as well and keep working him with the quarterbacks. They need to log the playing time in preseason with those guys and get them as many snaps as possible in the preseason. I hope they use the same philosophy with Loadholt and Sullivan.

VU: What are your impressions of Sullivan at this point? Are you fairly confident that he can handle it?

BL: I'm a positive person, but when I watch him on the pass rush, I wasn't overly, overly impressed. I never saw him dominate anybody, so that's one of my concerns. I'm going to have to watch him closely, but from what I've seen I'm not impressed yet. But the center position is more than just handling the pass rush.

VU: What are your continued impressions of Percy Harvin?

BL: Whether Percy Harvin is going to be good or bad doesn't really matter right now. Speaking from the defensive player's mentality that I have, I'd be scared to death every time he steps on the field. They are going to throw so much at you with that Wildcat and what he can do – speaking for the defensive linemen because I won't step out of my lane there – it will change their aggressiveness. It will change my reads. It will get me thinking more, and any time you start thinking more, you try to stay away from that and go with your instincts. Right now, it's going to slow down the defensive line.

VU: When you say that, are you talking about strictly when he's lined up in the backfield or as the Wildcat or motioning into the backfield, or are you talking about when he's in the slot or out wide?

BL: It depends on what you see on film. I'm talking more about between the tackles. When he's going in motion and coming your way, it's going to limit the end. That would basically be an alert to the end, whereas normally someone in the backfield doesn't make you that accountable in reading motions. It just means you have to have more awareness with your reads.

VU: What do you make of the whole Antoine Winfield situation? Could this drag into training camp?

BL: Good for Winny. I love the kid. He's a true professional. He steps forward to tell you what he's thinking as a ballplayer. Right now, if they're working out negotiations, then go for it. The first three players that were drafted this year are going to be getting $70 million without taking a snap. Winfield has proved himself. He's a team player and a team leader. After a while on defense, do you really have to come to these camps? It's easy for me to say because, not being a great athlete, I always came to camp in shape so that was a no-brainer for me. Now, apparently for these millionaires, you have to babysit them more to get them in shape and work them. With Winfield having that old-time attitude, he doesn't have to be there after the years he's played. Get the money you deserve because you've earned it and those top three draft choices haven't earned a nickel yet.

VU: Where do you think the overall talent on this team stands in relation to last year at this time?

BL: Without seeing Percy Harvin and the rest of the new players in pads against live competition, I see it no better than what they were last year. Why? Because the single-most important position is that quarterback slot and I watched the different routines and drills that the quarterbacks went through. I liked Sage more, but as it stands right now they haven't improved on that position until I see them in the games. Right now, the defense is still good and Leslie Frazier is a great coach. Now it's just a matter of finding someone that can read the defense quickly, and how much John David Booty wants to get for his No. 4 jersey.

VU: What's a fair price on jersey numbers these days?

BL: In 1999, Joe Phillips bought Matt Birk's No. 75 for $300 because Birk had to go out and buy new jerseys for his family when he switched to 78. That was $300, but now I think it might be a little higher and Brett Favre might be a little looser with the money. It's going to be interesting with Booty because if somebody came and asked me for my number when I played, I'd be happy to give it to them because the number doesn't mean anything. I played for four different teams and four different numbers.

VU: Any other observations that stood out for you?

BL: Brian Robison continues to play hard. Other players are kind of going through the motions in the offseason and loping around. Some of the seasoned veterans are just waiting for camp to start, but he's always had to work uphill. He knows he has to have the work ethic. He knows he has to have the effort to make the squad. If you're going to make it, you've got to work at it. He did that during the offseason and he is dominating out there as far as taking care of the offensive linemen.

Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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