Guion’s development slowed by knee injury

MANKATO, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings felt confident enough in defensive tackle Letroy Guion’s development that they re-signed the 2008 fifth-round pick and have given him all the first-team snaps at the nose tackle position beside Kevin Williams.

Minnesota is hoping he can fill the void still remaining from when they decided to not re-sign Pat Williams after the 2010 season. Now the Vikings are hoping Guion can get back on the field quickly to prove they made a keen decision by signing him to a three-year contact as he entered free agency this spring. Guion suffered a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Friday’s preseason game at San Francisco and is expected to miss the next week of training camp.

“For me, I’m just going to stay in it like I’m still practicing,” Guion said Sunday. “Keep watching film, stay on top of everything, stay in tune to practice and watching; just get a visual learning on it.”

Guion’s injury isn’t severe and doctors told coach Leslie Frazier that the defensive tackle would miss about a week of camp. Frazier was hopeful Guion would return in time to play in the ever-important third preseason game on Aug. 24 at home against the San Diego Chargers.

Guion was hurt while chasing down running back Rock Cartwright during Friday’s game. He stayed in the game for a few plays before the knee stiffened on him and he had to come out. He was seen on the sideline with an icepack on the knee later in the game.

His development will be key for a defense that is hoping he can finally be the answer next to Kevin Williams in the Vikings’ base defense. Guion started two games last season when Williams was suspended for two games and started the second-to-last game next to Williams. Minnesota signed Remi Ayodele in free agency last season, but he struggled to fill the role and ended up ceding time to Guion and Fred Evans during the season.

Ayodele was released this offseason and the Vikings moved to sign Guion and Evans, who both entered free agents this offseason. While Guion and Evans were expected to compete for the starting nose tackle spot, Guion has taken nearly all of the first-team snaps in training camp.

“It’s big when you go out there and rep it with the ones versus ones on another team,” Guion said. “It’s good that I get to go against other guys that have high potential at their position, so I can get better at playing better as it comes.”

Guion had two tackles during Friday’s game and Minnesota is hoping he can return soon and continue his development.

“You don’t really want him to miss a whole lot of time because he’s a guy that we are counting on to really be a factor for us at that position, a major factor,” Frazier said. “Extended time loss would be a negative for what we are trying to do. Injuries are a part of our game and you can’t get around it. We have to deal with it as it comes. Fortunate for us, based on what we are told, it is only going to be a week injury. We should get him back for the third preseason game, which will be fantastic.”

Guion has spent four seasons with Minnesota since being a fifth-round draft pick in 2008. He turned into a solid role player the past two seasons, playing in 31 games and recording 54 tackles and two sacks. But most of his career he’s played behind Kevin Williams.

Now he’s being asked to play next to Williams and Guion’s ability to stop the run will be a key for the Vikings. Through two weeks of training camp, the coaches have been pleased with Guion’s play as a run-stopper and new defensive coordinator Alan Williams feels the 303-pound Guion is stout enough to anchor in the middle and stuff the run.

“Letroy has been one that has been phenomenal in camp,” Williams said earlier in training camp. “It may not seem to the naked eye but there are some clips of him just getting off blocks, running to the ball and pursuing. Day two he made a play outside of the numbers running to the football so we are very pleased with him and we’re waiting to see how Fred does. I said before that this is Minnesota, we’re going to have a hockey lineup so we need eight guys to come in and play for us and play well. We’ll have guys that are rotating and we expect whatever that rotation is for guys to play winning football.”

Guion believes he can hold down the inside of the defensive line and hopes to reward the team’s confidence by earning his first full-time starting role in the NFL.

“That’s big for me in my eyes, for me being a starter and they believing in me being a starter,” Guion said. “I think it’s an awesome opportunity and I’m looking forward to taking this opportunity and making the best of it.”

Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.