Vikings offensive tackles couldn't be less alike
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP)
With Matt Kalil under contract through 2015 and Phil Loadholt locked up a year longer than that, the Minnesota Vikings boast a sturdy and talented pair of offensive tackles they can include in the core of their roster for many more seasons.
The similarities of the recent high draft picks stop there, though. Kalil, the first-rounder in 2012, and Loadholt, a second-round selection in 2009, are about as opposite as players can be at the same position.
''We don't eat dinner together,'' Loadholt said, flashing a wry smile.
Diet is the root of their difference. The 6-foot-8 Loadholt, who carries as imposing of a physique as any player in the sport, tries to keep his weight at 335 pounds during the season. His story is more typical of the hulking modern NFL offensive lineman.
''He fasts a couple of days before weigh-ins,'' Kalil said. ''I try to eat as much as I can.''
That's because the 6-foot-7 Kalil has the metabolism of, well, a wide receiver. He wanted to play tight end in high school, a role he has the natural athleticism for, but his father, Frank, insisted to him and his coaches then that his son was going to be a left tackle.
To be effective, even in this age of sleek, speedy defensive ends in linebacker bodies, Kalil must be a 300-pounder.
Despite a bout with pneumonia last year that cost him 20 pounds as well as an offseason training regimen that he used to slim down to 280, Kalil arrived at training camp around 310 pounds. To stay there, he has to take in roughly 6,000 calories per day, slurping chalky protein shakes and wolfing down peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches between meals. He has spoken ruefully of this routine, describing his dislike for the constant consumption that sometimes makes him feel on the verge of vomiting.
On the other hand, this born-lean frame of his is big a reason why the Vikings took him with the fourth overall pick last year. His mobility is a skill that few others at his position around the league possess.
''I'm the strongest I've ever been and the fastest I've ever been, so I feel really good,'' Kalil said.
Loadholt is the relentless blocker on the right side the Vikings most often try to run Adrian Peterson behind, a studious player who has mostly overcome a penchant for false start penalties earlier in his career. Being three years older than Kalil, he'll offer a technique tip here or there. But because of their different sizes and blocking styles, there's not a lot about the way they play that can be compared.
Except that hard work thing.
''Neither one of us have got it all figured out by any means, but we're definitely working to improve each other together,'' Loadholt said.
Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson has the benefit of returning his entire group from a season in which all five of them started 16 games. That includes center John Sullivan, who's also under contract through 2016. Davidson's philosophy is to let each guy use the footwork and hand placement techniques they're most comfortable with and adept at, rather than pigeonholing them all into the same style. Considering the contrast that Kalil and Loadholt bring to the field, that approach is no better suited for a team than the Vikings.
''As a coach it takes longer to do it that way, but it's something I thought was important especially with the differences that we have,'' Davidson said. ''Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I'll let somebody else judge that, but I just know that it's the way that I believe and I think it's been important for those guys.''
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