At 6-foot-8 and 343 pounds, Phil Loadholt casts an imposing shadow, but he's not too big to look for his own flaws.
In fact, one of the flaws that stood out when Loadholt reviewed the film of his rookie year was caused by his size, but he's already made progress in getting that better.
"I definitely feel like my lower body has gotten a lot stronger. That's going to definitely help me be able to bend better, play with a little bitter leverage. We'll get to camp and see how it goes," he said, acknowledging that knee bend is a typical issue for taller offensive linemen.
"Definitely. I think that's a problem with all tall offensive linemen, having that leverage, especially when you play against some of the shorter guys. Like I said, I'm going to work on it some more these next couple months and when we get to camp we'll see how it goes."
At least this year he knows what team he'll be playing for. Rookies spend the first few months after their college season preparing for the all-star games, NFL Scouting Combine and private workouts. In some cases, that can take away from their actual football conditioning. With a year under his belt, Loadholt knows what is expected of him on the field and where he can improve.
"This year I had a lot of time to look over film with the coaches and teammates and just see things that I could have did better at last season. I obviously have the time now to improve on those things," he said.
Some of those improvements are physical, like his knee bend. Others are mental, like knowing the speed of defenders at the NFL level and knowing the offense.
"There's a lot of things, everything from just my overall knowledge of the playbook, just being stronger in the pass game, staying low. It's a lot of stuff, not one thing in particular. I'm working on everything, just trying to improve my overall game," he said.
One thing he learned is that there isn't a game where he can think it's going to be easy. Despite playing at Oklahoma, there were some games at the college level when he knew his defender was overmatched. That isn't the case in the NFL.
"In college, I'm not going to say you don't have to bring it every game, but you know your opponent," he said. "I can say that there was not one of those games this year. Every D-end I went against was really good."
Although Loadholt had a good initial showing in 2009, he struggled to stay healthy. He battled through an ankle injury that began in the preseason and eventually missed a Week 13 game with a shoulder injury.
And, yet, he still started 15 games, displaying a resolve that impressed his coaches. He tried to downplay the toughness angle of his rookie season.
"I don't know about that, but I just tried to do what I could when I could do it. Whether I impressed (the coaches) or not, I don't know anything about that, but I was allowed to play and had a lot of fun playing in my first NFL season," he said.
"I think I had a decent season. Like coach said, I've been one lap around the track so I kind of know what to expect coming in and getting a chance to play against the same guys in the division from last year and some new guys as well. I think I had a decent season and I've got a lot of improving to do."
Most of that improvement will come because he knows what to expect now. There isn't the great unknown with every aspect of the offseason and during the season.
"That's the main thing, just not knowing what to expect. Not knowing what to expect going against this team or that team or just the overall atmosphere of an NFL Sunday," he said. "I got comfortable at the end – toward the end of the season and in the playoffs, stuff like that. Now that I've been around and kind of know what to expect – not that I've got it all figured out – but I kind of know what to expect, so it makes it a little easier out there."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Loadholt working on rookie flaws
Viking Update Top Stories
Vikings sign 3 to practice squad, release 3The Minnesota Vikings shook up their practice squad on Tuesday, signing three – including an offensive lineman – and releasing three.
Viking Update1:34 PM
Long: No excusesJake Long was only on the field for 13 plays Sunday at Philadelphia, but two of those resulted in turnovers that cost the Minnesota Vikings offense from putting up points. On…
Viking Update12:55 PM
Did rotating tackles affect Vikings?The Minnesota Vikings took the unusual step of rotating their offensive tackles in the first half of Sunday’s loss. Did that affect their performance? Alex Boone reacted to that,…
Viking Update12:42 PM
Cutler’s back, drawing angry Vikings defenseThe Bears announced Monday that, in the midst of Chicago’s World Series frenzy, local goat Jay Cutler will be making his return to playing action. How will it go? The Minnesota…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 10:02 PM