With Sullivan still recovering, Vikes line in flux

With 10 days remaining before their much-anticipated

regular-season opener, the Minnesota Vikings have a lot of work to

do to get their offense in sync.

Because of injuries and acquisitions, the wide receivers aren’t

up to speed. The old quarterback, Brett Favre, is less than two

weeks into his post-training-camp catch-up session for the second

straight summer.

Probably the most pressing issue, however, is the interior of

the offensive line. Starting center John Sullivan has been held out

for most of the month because of a lingering right-calf injury, and

was absent from practice again on Monday.

”We’re just trying not to load it up too much,” coach Brad

Childress said, referring to Sullivan’s leg. ”We’re still trying

to get some of the soreness out.”

Regular right guard Anthony Herrera spent some time at center

during each of the last two preseason games, though Childress said

he might not have Herrera play there at all in Thursday’s

exhibition against the Denver Broncos and focus instead on backups

Jon Cooper and Ryan Cook. When Herrera moved to the middle, rookie

Chris DeGeare got time at right guard.

As for whether Sullivan will be ready in time to face the Super

Bowl champion Saints on Sept. 9, well, that’s a mystery. Even

though Childress has acknowledged the possibility of Herrera making

a long-term move to center, he hasn’t committed to Herrera as

Sullivan’s replacement if that becomes necessary. Cooper and,

perhaps, Cook remain possibilities.

”It’s just like everything on offense: We are still in a state

of change,” Childress said.

Sullivan’s grasp of the complexity of the position isn’t a

concern for the Vikings. Rather, he’s fallen behind with his

conditioning with all the missed practice time.

”Sully’s a smart guy,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell

said. ”He’ll be able to pick up whatever we’re doing. He knows the

calls. He knows our offense, so that’s not the issue. The issue

would probably be his stamina, his strength and some of those

things from not being in there.”

The Vikings have not revealed the exact nature of Sullivan’s

injury. When asked how many full practices the third-year player

would need before he’s cleared to go to New Orleans, Childress

chose the vague route for his answer.

”As many as you can get. Let’s put it that way. Then you make a

decision if we are better off to go with someone else or put him in

there,” Childress said.

In last week’s preseason game against Seattle, Favre was hit

hard a few times and the protection up front was shaky. Aside from

a 24-yard carry, Adrian Peterson had no room to run. Left guard

Steve Hutchinson blamed mental errors for some of the line’s

problems.

”We’ve probably got a number of things to work on,” Hutchinson

said. ”With offense it’s always timing and things like that.”

Hutchinson has been helping Herrera with the pre-snap calls at

the line, considered the most important part of playing center next

to hiking the ball cleanly.

One of the team’s most aggressive and rugged players, Herrera

acknowledged after Saturday’s game against the Seahawks it’s hard

for him to slow down his pace – which is a must at the center

position.

”You can’t be out of your box. You have to stay calm,” he

said.

Herrera stopped short of complaining about the challenge,

however.

”I get paid to play. I get paid to get better at my craft, and

at the end of the day everything will take care of itself,” he

said.