Letroy Guion has slowed down in order to speed up.
Just give him a minute, and it will all make sense. Guion believes he is about to enter his fourth pro season a far different player -- and, he suggests, person -- than he was as a 20-year-old, fifth-round draft pick coming out of Florida State early. And the key was slowing down.
Off the field, that is.
"I just slowed my life down a little bit," Guion said after practice Monday. It was a short workout and a cool day, but Guion was sweating hard after it was over. "I just started paying more attention."
When he says slowing down, what he likely means is taking his time, especially in meetings and with film. Guion paid more attention in the former and watched more of the latter.
He'll need both. With Kevin Williams serving a two-game suspension, Guion will be taking his place as a starting defensive tackle. As such, he represents a lot of what the 2011 Vikings will be about -- trusting younger players to take a step up. As Jared Allen pointed out, he is the only person currently starting on the defensive line who started last season's finale.
"Not having Kevin here sucks," Allen said. "It really does. But we have guys. Guion has been here, he knows the level of play we expect of him. ... We have to move forward. Hopefully we'll get through the first two weeks, then welcome [Williams] back."
As a rookie, Guion was inactive for 15 of 17 games, spending the season watching and learning from Kevin and Pat Williams. By the end of year two, Guion had seen action in only nine games.
Things started changing last season. Getting into a limited rotation at defensive tackle, Guion had 16 tackles (12 solo) and two sacks. Still, he was a work in progress.
Guion came to camp this fall a little thicker and stronger, now over 300 pounds at 6-4. As the preseason progressed, coach Leslie Frazier noted Guion's obvious maturation.
His teammates noticed it, too.
"He's definitely maturing," Allen said. "Think about it. He's still a young kid. He came out a couple years early. He's developing. We work on a lot of technique here. ... He's naturally strong, gifted, athletic. When he gets his technique working on all cylinders, he's a tough dude to deal with."
Guion flashed his skills in the preseason. In the second preseason game in Seattle, he had a hand in three of four stops during a goal-line stand that started at the Vikings 2 near the end of the first quarter. He got the tackle on first down and got great push on fourth down during the stand.
"It's more about knowing formations," Guion said of playing the run. "You know, playing the double-teams, knowing the zone plays, just knowing what you're seeing and reacting to it."
What he sees now is opportunity. How will he react?
"He came in young, but he's made gains year after year," defensive end Brian Robison said. "We're ready to see what he can do in these first two weeks."
So is Guion. "It will be exciting," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."