Massive rookie Travis Bond getting look as Vikings seek swing tackle
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The Minnesota Vikings are giving Travis Bond plenty of opportunities to show he can be their "swing" tackle as a rookie.
When Phil Loadholt or Matt Kalil has needed a break in the team's two open organized team activity practices, it's been Bond -- the seventh-round draft pick (214th overall) from North Carolina -- who has gotten the call into the first-team huddle.
"Just out here trying to learn every play I get," Bond said after practice last week. "Just got to learn more concepts, think how the older guys think. Getting a lot of feedback from Phil and (right guard Brandon) Fusco. It's pretty fun out there."
Nicknamed "Tree Top", Bond mostly played right guard for the Tar Heels despite a prototypical tackle frame (6-foot-6, 35½-inch arms) that supported as much as 375 pounds after the 2011 season.
He dropped to around 330 as a senior, when he earned honorable mention all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors, and has looked relatively trim while learning the Vikings' offense and repping at right guard and both tackle spots in OTAs.
"It's cool," Bond said. "I'm used to (playing different spots), because at Carolina, I was like a swing guy. If somebody goes down, I fill in."
Bond said some of the terminology in Bill Musgrave's offense matches the way things were called under former North Carolina coach Butch Davis, who ran a pro-style offense before his dismissal in the wake of an academic misconduct scandal in July 2011.
Geoff Schwartz, who made $900,000 as the Vikings' top backup tackle last year, left to sign a one-year contract with Kansas City. Troy Kropog, practice-squad holdover Kevin Murphy and former sixth-round pick DeMarcus Love join Bond atop the list of candidates.
Coach Leslie Frazier recently mentioned Bond as a candidate to compete at guard, too. But Bond knows backing up Kalil and Loadholt -- who each played all 1,097 snaps last season -- might be his best chance to stick.
"I think I can do it," Bond said. "Haven't played a lot of left, but just got to refresh my memory. It's a big transition, moving from right to left. It might not seem like it, but it's like muscle memory. You've just got to get back in the hang of it."