Loadholt learning on the go

One glance and everyone knows Phil Loadholt has the frame to make a sizeable contribution on the offensive line, but his offseason work was a time to learn the terminology. See what Loadholt and his coaches had to say about his first offseason as a professional.

Phil Loadholt is the newest "big man on campus" at the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility, but he's not the only one challenging the jersey makers with a frame of 6-foot-8 and in excess of 330 pounds.

Loadholt has some triple-XL help in the shape of Bryant McKinnie to offer him veteran advice as the rookie makes his way through his initial NFL season.

"I go to him every day to ask him some more questions and he always answers them like all the other vets, so he's really been helping me out a lot," Loadholt said after an organized team activity practice earlier this month.

There are just certain things that apply to tall offensive linemen that a 6-foot-2 version just can't relate to as much.

"On the pass rush, just some different things with sets and things like that. Just some things that he does, ways to handle things at our size that other players can't do the same," Loadholt said. "(Having McKinnie) is definitely a plus. I can learn something every day."

But Loadholt added that it's not just McKinnie's size that makes him a valuable asset for a rookie lineman. "It's comfortable because he's been a good player for so long in this league and he's helping me out with things I can do to become a successful player," he said.

But with Loadholt, at least in these initial months of the fans and media getting to know him, it's always about his size. He said there is never an interview where people don't ask about his size, and fans are often confusing him with McKinnie.

"They always think I'm him. That's a question I get a lot. … I went golfing the other day and they said, ‘Are you Bryant McKinnie?'" Loadholt said earlier this month.

He said he's always been "bigger than most kids," but he doesn't mind the questions about his size.

In Pop Warner football, he played one age level higher because of his build, but now it is all about getting up to speed in a league where other players are his equal in size.

The biggest challenge for him will be adjusting to the knowledge that NFL defensive linemen bring with them to the field on Sundays.

"Their knowledge of the game is so much higher, you can just tell going against the players out here (in practice). They know what to expect. It's been a lot of fun and I'm learning a lot," he said. "It's going real smooth so far. I'm fortunate to have a lot of vets with me. I'm learning a lot from them."

He isn't too concerned about the physical part of the game, at least early in the season, but he admitted that he needs to keep learning.

"I'd probably say, just like every rookie, terminology, get smarter in the game," he said when asked about the biggest challenge for him in his rookie season. "There is a lot of different things you've got to do at this level. Just learning those things and trying to transition them will probably be the hardest."

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell seemed to have few concerns about Loadholt's athletic abilities during minicamp.

"As far as physically, he is physically gifted. He has handled himself well. I like his temperament," Bevell said. "He has a little bit of physicality to him. So I like what I have seen in him so far."

The offseason practices seem to be second nature to him because the players don't wear any pads, so he said he isn't feeling overwhelmed at all. That might come later in the season when the physical tolls of a 16-game season, preceded by a four-game preseason, start to take a toll on his body.

"Because of how long the season goes, I've got to learn to play it as it goes and don't try to do everything at once. Just get better throughout the 16-week season," he said. "Right now I feel alright. We haven't really put everything in. We've only been doing OTA stuff. I feel pretty comfortable right now. I've got a long way to go."

Once in awhile, he was reminded of that over the past month whenever Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen would switch over the left side of the defensive line. It didn't take Loadholt long to mention Allen when asked about which defensive linemen had been giving him the most trouble.

"Jared Allen, of course. He's one of the best D-linemen in the league," Loadholt said. "All of them are real good. I get a chance to go against all of them and I learn something each and every time I go against all of them."

Allen has been helping out Loadholt on occasion, offering advice, but Loadholt said he didn't ever get the best of Allen. Maybe that's why the big offensive tackle isn't taking anything for granted when it comes to him earning the starting job on the right side of the line.

"I really don't feel anything about that right now. I can't really control any of that. I'm just trying to compete every day and have a lot of fun playing," he said.

Head coach Brad Childress believes Loadholt's drive to succeed will serve him well.

"He has got a very competitive demeanor. He likes football and he loves all the little stuff that goes with it. He works at his game," Childress said. "So there is no reason to believe he won't be a good professional."


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