PHOENIX – Right guard has moved to or near the top of the Vikings’ list of priorities as the organization heads into its final weeks of preparation for next month’s NFL draft.
Asked Wednesday if he currently has five offensive line starters that he’s satisfied with, coach Mike Zimmer hesitated.
“I don’t know,” he said during the NFC coaches breakfast at the annual league meetings. “I think I got four. But we’ll see. We still have to figure out the guard position, the right guard. I think I know what the center is going to be but things change so fast.”
The leading candidates at right guard are Jeremiah Sirles, a utility player who saw action at both guard and tackle spots last season; and Joe Berger, a natural center and longtime proven starter at all three interior positions. Ideally, the Vikings would like to keep Berger at center and bring in another quality player to compete at right guard.
“We still have the draft coming up and there’s still more time in free agency,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to continue to look at every option possible.”
Reiff and Remmers
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said there were only five free agent offensive tackles he would have considered signing this year. He wouldn’t list the order in which he had them, but he said he got two of them in left tackle Riley Reiff and right tackle Mike Remmers.
Zimmer said they’re “probably better run blockers than pass protectors,” but added, “they’re adequate in pass protection” and will improve the team’s edge protection because “they play like veterans.”
“They’ll change up their sets, they’ll change up their hands … so [pass rushers] are not getting the same [look] every play and don’t get in the rhythm with them,” Zimmer said. “Last year, we had a lot of quick misses [in pass protection]. These guys are going to fight and make it a lot tougher to get around.”
Surgery for two safeties
Starting safeties Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith had surgeries recently but are expected to return to full strength long before training camp, an NFL source said.
Smith had ankle surgery. The Pro Bowl free safety was hampered by a severe ankle injury that forced him to miss two games late in the season.
Sendejo, who underwent knee surgery, had his second season as starter end due to the knee injury suffered in practice. He was placed on injured reserve and missed the regular-season finale against Chicago.
Two surgeries, one coach
The next of what Zimmer hopes will be his final two eye surgeries will come April 17.
“I don’t know the big terms,” he said of the procedure. “Right now, I have an oil bubble in my eye. They’re going to take that out and then put an oxygen bubble in there. I won’t be able to fly for two weeks. Then, after that, because they’ve had so many surgeries I got to do a cataract surgery, which they say is nothing.”
The cataract surgery is expected to come in June.
Wishing Peterson well
Zimmer said none of his peers have contacted him for a scouting report on Adrian Peterson, who was released by the Vikings earlier this month and is still on the open market.
“I’m sure he’ll find a place to play and will have a good year,” Zimmer said. “[His release] was just like with some of the other guys. Salary. He’s still a good player.”
Leap for Laquon?
Zimmer said 2016 first-round draft pick Laquon Treadwell finally is healthy after an injury-riddled rookie season that saw him catch only one pass.
“I think he’s going to have a good year,” Zimmer said. “He needs to learn some of the pro game too and understanding those things.”
Similar comments were often made about Cordarrelle Patterson, who struggled as a receiver for four seasons before signing with the Raiders this offseason.
“I think Laquon has a better understanding of things,” Zimmer said. “I don’t think he understands quite some of the subtleties that he needs. I think he’s got the basics down pretty good. He had a lot of injuries. Then he was pressing. Then I think he just has to come in and be an athlete.”
Sugarman the savior
Zimmer talked more about the day last August when Teddy Bridgewater went down with his gruesome knee injury during a noncontact practice drill. It was head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman who quickly diagnosed the severity of the dislocation and torn ligaments and got Bridgewater the help he needed.
“Eric did an unbelievable job of possibly saving this guy’s career and maybe saving his leg,” Zimmer said. “I mean Teddy should be his friend for the rest of his life for sure.”