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Updated: August 2nd, 2011 1:06pm
Charlie Johnson to work at left tackle in Bryant McKinnie's absence

Charlie Johnson to work at left tackle in Bryant McKinnie's absence

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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© AP 2011
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MANKATO, Minn. -- When Charlie Johnson makes his Minnesota Vikings practice debut on Thursday, he'll be at left tackle.

Where that leaves Bryant McKinnie is anyone's guess.

McKinnie went through another rehabilitation workout while teammates practiced on Tuesday morning and declined to speak with reporters.

Coach Leslie Frazier remained vague, saying only that nothing has changed since the Vikings placed McKinnie on the non-football injury list on Monday and the veteran left tackle's conditioning "is a part" of the issue.

Asked if McKinnie will miss days or weeks, Frazier said, "Not certain as we speak. I'll learn a little bit more (in a staff meeting on Tuesday) afternoon when we talk where we're headed."

Signing Johnson to a three-year contract on Monday is beginning to look as much like a possible alternative to McKinnie as insurance at right guard, where Chris DeGeare is taking the first-team reps while Anthony Herrera continues to recover from knee reconstruction and triceps surgery.

The Vikings plan to work Johnson at multiple spots, but Frazier confirmed he'll start off at the position McKinnie has manned throughout his nine-year NFL career.

Citing an NFL source, the Web site DraftHeadquarters.com reported the Vikings have initiated trade talks with other teams involving McKinnie. That would be a drastic and risky measure, though, since the general consensus among scouts is that Johnson was miscast at left tackle in Indianapolis and belongs at guard.

At age 31, McKinnie is in decline but remains an above-average starter at one of the most challenging positions in football. He remains modestly priced, too, with base salary and bonuses totaling $5.65 million this season on a contract that runs through 2013.

Johnson, 27, said the Colts didn't push hard to re-sign him after five seasons, 73 games and 54 starts, mostly on Peyton Manning's blinside.

"I'm going to come compete," Johnson said. "I feel like that's what they brought me in for, was to come in and compete and try to get one of those five spots on the line. So, I'm not going to sit back and try to bide my time and wait. I'm going to come in and compete and see what happens."

Frazier spoke at the NFL scouting combine in February about wanting to upgrade an aging offensive line that has flagged badly over the past two seasons. But the two linemen the Vikings drafted in April -- tackle DeMarcus Love in the fifth round and center Brandon Fusco in the sixth -- are unlikely to contribute anytime soon.

The Vikings switched offensive line coaches from Pat Morris to Jeff Davidson, and the acquisition of Johnson was a bold personnel move. The end game of that signing, however, remains unclear for now.

"I was watching some of the drills (Tuesday) in practice and some of the things he's doing will help the guys improve," Frazier said. "Part of it is they're willing to pay the price to be better than we were in the past. I think that will happen. They have a rejuvenated spirit and just looking forward to seeing how they progress."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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