Loadholt enjoys blocking, not business
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Phil Loadholt was already growing nervous as free agency approached last week, fully expecting he'd have re-signed earlier with the Minnesota Vikings. He then watched Percy Harvin, with one year remaining on his contract, get traded to the Seattle Seahawks a day before Loadholt was going to reach unrestricted free agency for the first time in his NFL career.
The lessons of NFL business were coming at the big right tackle fast and furious. Loadholt wanted to return to Minnesota, the team that selected him in the second round of the 2009 draft. Loadholt had expressed his desire to return "publically and privately." Vikings general manager Rick Spielman made the 6-foot-8, 343-pound right-side anchor his priority among the team's unrestricted free agents, but the process played out, even through the new three-day negotiating window when Loadholt said his agent talked to a few different teams.
"The business part of football is very shaky, so it was definitely a tough time for myself and my family," Loadholt said last week after signed a reported four-year, $25 million contract. "You never know what can happen. There were definitely times where I was a little nervous and things like that, but at the end of the day I'm back here being a Viking and happy."
Loadholt never ended up reaching the open market. With the Chicago Bears rumored to be very interested, he re-signed just before the start of free agency last week. In the end, Minnesota retained the final piece of its offensive line, keeping intact the same five players that started all 16 games last season.
But dealing with the business side was rough for Loadholt, who never wanted to leave and didn't want his situation to play out as long as it did. He said the closest experience he can equate the past few weeks to is the draft and the stress of not knowing where he'd end up.
Of course, the draft was the link between Loadholt and Harvin, the Vikings' top two picks in 2009. Loadholt was selected a round after Harvin and says it's hard to be surprised in the NFL, but seeing Harvin depart is another example of the "shaky" business in the NFL.
"I got a feeling that Rick and the Wilfs and everybody up there is doing their thing to improve our team," Loadhold said. "I know we all have that same goal in that building. The business part of football, I can't understand it and a lot of people really will never understand it. Me and Percy, we will forever be connected.
"You see guys come and go, he's a great player. Definitely would love to be playing with him, but like I said the business side of football is something that's extremely hard to understand. "
Thankfully, Loadholt won't need to think about his side of the business for a while. He's concentrating on building on what might have been the best season of his career last year. With Loadholt as one of the keys to a dominant run-blocking unit, Adrian Peterson won the MVP award and challenged the single-season rushing record. Those are feats Loadholt, Peterson — who made sure to put in a good word for his right tackle — and Spielman would like to replicate.
"You know, the one thing about Phil is, he's not only a physical run blocker," Spielman said. "I think that right side, and what he does for that right side and when Adrian runs to that right side, there's no question about the accomplishments that Adrian has made. A lot of that has to do, not only with Phil, but with our whole offensive line. The goal was to keep that line together and create that continuity as long as we can. We were able to get Matt Kalil in there, did some things with the guards, extended John Sullivan. Now, Phil Loadholt will be a part of that for a long time."
Loadholt, who said his biggest improvements must still come in using his hands in pass protection and leverage in run blocking, is ready to get back to work and continue his growth — now that the business is out of the way.
"It took a little longer than expected, but the business part of football is shaky," Loadholt said. "You never know what to expect, but like I said, ultimately everything came out just right."
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