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Two fullbacks out, rookie Zach Line gets last shot as starter

by Andrew Krammer, 1500ESPN.com Updated 24 months ago | 3488 reads

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Zach Line understands the luck it takes to go from undrafted at the Minnesota Vikings' rookie minicamps in May, to starting fullback in the NFL less than four months later.

The stars simply aligned for Line, who will make his third start on Sunday.

"Could things have worked out any better? You could've written a story," Line said. "It's not fortunate for Jerome [Felton], but he's a seasoned vet, he'll come in and do a great job right away. But it gave me the opportunity to come in and get some real-time reps, otherwise they may have been very few and far between."

Coming off a Pro Bowl season, the Vikings' starter, Felton, was suspended for three games after a DUI arrest over 14 months prior. Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns will be Felton's last benching before he returns to practice on Monday.

With backup fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison also out with a hyperextended knee, coach Leslie Frazier said there's no change in scheme as long as tight end John Carlson and Line stay healthy.

"It makes a difference if something were to happen to Zach or John," Frazier said. "It would make a difference to how many 2-back formations we end up in. Hopefully everything will go fine with the guys we have back there."

Line's expertise comes with the football in his hands, but he's had to learn on the job as the Vikings' fullback -- a position he hasn't lined up in since junior year of high school.

He didn't ultimately commit to fullback until late in the team's offseason programs and, really, that was the only way he could've made the team.

"Coming from running back, I've been trained for four-plus years to avoid contact," Line said. "I'm trying to not tell everyone where to go, I wanted to at first, wanted to tell the ball where to go, position myself to tell Adrian [Peterson] where to run, so can't do that."

Fortunately for the Vikings, Felton's suspension came before their slew of cuts at the end of August. Whether that played a factor or not, they chose to sign Line for at least the first three weeks.

Felton is eligible to return to practice on Monday and the Vikings must make a roster spot available -- making Sunday's game a little more of a test for Line.

Ellison's absence gives the rookie even more room to work with, but he said there's no clock ticking in his head.

"No," Line said. "I mean, I have no control over that. If it is, it is, if it's not, it's not. Just getting that first win. It'd be nice to get a win under my belt as a starter."


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