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Updated: August 1st, 2013 1:16pm
Phil Loadholt cashed in, but still battling to up his game

Phil Loadholt cashed in, but still battling to up his game

by Andrew Krammer
1500ESPN.com
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Phil Loadholt stands a foot above the average human being, the tallest player on the Minnesota Vikings' 90-man roster in training camp.

At 6-foot-8, one of Loadholt's only drawbacks is his tendency to get caught out of position by speedy defensive ends and outside linebackers who often get underneath his pads and work the giant into the backfield.

"One thing for me, I'm going to have to battle my entire career is leverage," Loadholt said. "Especially on the offensive line. They say the low man wins, that's something I'll have to work on forever with my height."

The Vikings ponied up to sign their fifth-year right tackle, who has started nearly every game since drafted in the second round in 2009, by agreeing to a four-year, $25 million contract less than an hour before NFL free agency opened on March 12.

The Chicago Bears made a push for Loadholt's services because the Vikings reportedly weren't willing to commit more than $5 million a year, but ultimately signed him for around $6.2 million per across the next four years.

"It felt good," Loadholt said. "The fact that I wanted to be here and the fact that I got it done made me feel good. It's a relief."

Loadholt's size helps him dominate in the running game, but it's when he shuffles back to protect quarterback Christian Ponder he struggles -- having a hand in 10 sacks last season, on top of 11 penalties.

"I need to continue to work on bending my knees, working on hand placement and my footwork," Loadholt said.

The Vikings are the only of NFC North teams to return their starting offensive line from last season and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said despite Loadholt cashing in this offseason, he'll continue to improve.

"From my perspective, he's been moving better than he has in the past few years," Musgrave said. "He definitely has that drive and determination no matter what his contract status is."

Andrew Krammer covers the Minnesota Vikings for 1500ESPN.com. He previously covered the Gophers men's basketball team for the Minnesota Daily.
Email Andrew | @andrew_krammer
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