Vikings line still a looming question

Everybody is watching the battle of the quarterbacks, but there is another battle going on front of them. The offensive line is working to jell with two very new parts.

All eyes are on the Vikings' quarterbacks during training camp as Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels battle for a job that could have been Brett Favre's if the future Hall of Famer had wanted to end his retirement. Jackson added more suspense to it after a strong first day, following by a knee injury that took him out of practice for several days.

But the coaching staff is also going to be paying close attention to at least two of the guys trying to protect the quarterback.

John Sullivan, a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2008, and Phil Loadholt, a second-round pick out of Oklahoma in April, are expected to take over at center and right tackle, respectively.

Sullivan has one of the toughest assignments on the Vikings because he is replacing longtime starter Matt Birk. Selected to the Pro Bowl six times, Birk had been the Vikings' starting center since the 2000 season. (He missed 2005 because of injury).

Birk, who signed with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent last March, also was a hometown favorite in Minnesota because he is from St. Paul and attended Cretin-Derham Hall High School. The school has produced several notable athletes, including Minnesota Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer.

Sullivan is expected to be fine when it comes to making the line calls that Birk handled, but it will be interesting to see how he fares against the big nose tackles he is going to have to face. Sullivan is listed at 6-4, 301 pounds but doesn't appear to be that big.

His first regular-season test will be a good one as the Vikings open against Cleveland and 350-pound Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.

Size is not an issue for Loadholt, who is listed at 6-8, 343 pounds. That means the Vikings will have bookend tackles of Loadholt on the right side and Bryant McKinnie (6-8, 335 pounds) on the left side.

Loadholt was taking the majority of the snaps with the first team early in camp and it's hard to believe he won't win a job that was held by Ryan Cook last season. Cook struggled at various points in the year and is expected to be used at guard, tackle and even center during camp.

Cook's versatility could win him a roster spot as a backup.

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