By Judd Zulgad
Just checking in from the airport before Chip and I head to Cleveland for the regular-season opener on Sunday. I wrote about the offensive line this morning. One player I did not quote but whom I talked for the story was John Sullivan. Sullivan, entering his second season, will be taking over as the starting center this season. His first test will be a good one as he goes against Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers. Here is the Q&A I did with Sullivan on Friday.
Q. How far has the offensive line come since training camp opened?
A. "I think we've come a long way. That's a lot of chemistry, we're all on the same page. I think we're as ready as we can be for this weekend and the opening week."
Q. How far do you feel that you've come personally?
A. "I think we've gotten a lot better. Obviously, I'm not anywhere near where I want to be and where I think I can be. But I've gotten consistently better every day. I think I've come out to work every single time I've stepped on the field and am better in all facets. Pass blocking and run blocking and just my understanding of our scheme. So it's been a good, productive preseason."
Q. How nice of a welcome-to-the-starting lineup moment will it be to face Shaun Rogers?
A. "He's an incredible player. There's no better d-lineman in the league but fortunately I get to play Pat and Kevin [Williams, the Vikings Pro Bowl defensive tackles] every day [and] they are on that same level. I'm not sure how it will go but it should be a pretty nice welcome to the NFL moment."
Q. Nobody questions your smarts, but there have been questions about your size (Sullivan is listed at 6-4, 301 pounds). What is your feeling about those concerns?
A. "I know people bring up size issues and I'm obviously not the biggest center in the league but I'm over 300 pounds so I think that's just people talking ... people have to look for something to criticize so that's just the easiest thing to do because I'm not the biggest guy at that position. No matter how big you are you have to be ready to play against enormous defensive tackles and I don't think it's an issue."
Q. How much of what you do is getting good leverage, too?
A. "There's a lot of leverage and technique. Obviously with all else things equal the bigger the better in this game really. At the same time there are lot more components than that. So, yeah, size is important, don't get me wrong. But there are things you can use to overcome such as leverage and good technique and just playing smart."
Q. How much does it help to have a Pro Bowl player like Steve Hutchinson to your left?
A. "It's huge. Hutch and Anthony [right guard Anthony Herrera] are very experienced guys and great players. It's a big help for me."
Q. You are going to be making the line calls, but can QB Brett Favre help with that because of his experience?
A. "It doesn't matter who is back there at quarterback, protection is protecting the quarterback so it's all about them. So if they want it blocked a certain way that's how we do it. They have the trump card everytime. On the offensive line I'm responsible for getting everybody on the same page. If I see the call, I can make it, but ultimately it's up to the quarterback so if he sees something he doesn't like he changes it."