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  1. #1
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    Right side OK feeling left out

    Posted on Thu, Aug. 10, 2006

    [size=18px]Right side OK feeling left out[/size]

    Pioneer Press

    MANKATO, Minn. — As a public service to anyone who has been confused by the attention being paid the left side of the Vikings' offensive line, center Matt Birk would like to make the following announcements:

    One, the team also has a right guard and tackle.

    And two, the Vikings' offense even has some plays designed to go to the right.

    "We've actually got a couple of them drawn up that way," Birk cracked.

    All kidding aside, the "other" side of the line has certainly played in the shadow of center Birk, left guard Steve Hutchinson and left tackle Bryant McKinnie during training camp. But right guard Artis Hicks said he and right tackle Marcus Johnson don't feel slighted.

    "It's no big thing inside here," Hicks said. "On the outside, the media can make it seem like that, but inside this team it's not. When you make a big offseason acquisition like Hutchinson, and you put him beside McKinnie and Birk, you have to talk about that. Those are big-time names, but it's not that big of a deal to us. We're just trying to do our jobs."

    Besides, Hicks said, the left side has earned the attention. Hutchinson, who was signed away from Seattle during the offseason, has been to three Pro Bowls in his first five NFL seasons. Birk, entering his ninth season, has been to four.

    "And Big Mac, he's one of the biggest, strongest left tackles in the game," Hicks said. "We're just trying to get where those guys are at."

    According to their more celebrated linemates, Hicks and Johnson are off to a good start.

    Hicks, a fifth-year veteran acquired in a draft-day trade with Philadelphia, and second-year pro Johnson can't match their left-side counterparts when it comes to postseason honors or experience. Until they prove otherwise, the right side will continue to be regarded as the line's weaker half.

    Hutchinson said he is confident Hicks (6 feet 4, 335 pounds) and Johnson (6-6, 321) can hold up their end.

    "Artis spent the majority of his time in Philly on the left side, and now he's at right guard. That's a whole different world," Hutchinson said. "People think it's no big deal, but that's a lot of different stuff. He's doing a great job, and I think Marcus is doing real well, too."

    Birk, who pointed out he doesn't belong to either side — "I'm Switzerland. I'm neutral." — agreed.

    "Obviously, the left side gets a lot of attention, but over there you've got two pretty good football players as well," he said. "Like all of us, when you're working with a new guy it takes time, but both those guys have the right attitude. They work hard, and they're both real talented."

    As for coach Brad Childress …

    "I like the right side of my line," he said. "I think Marcus is a year better, and I know what Artis Hicks is. … They're coming along."

    Johnson, who stopped talking to the media during the second half of last season, declined to be interviewed for this story, but Hicks said he has been impressed by the former second-round draft choice.

    "He's a real quiet, humble guy and a hard-working guy," Hicks said. "He wants to be real good, and he's going to be real good. It's only his second year, and he started eight games last year, so he's still learning. He's a very genuine person. He's a good dude, man."

    Hicks joined the Eagles in 2002 as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis and worked his way into a starting job by his third season, starting 13 games at left guard and tackle in 2004 and all 16 games (14 at left guard, two at left tackle) last season.

    Acquired for an exchange of fourth-round draft choices and a sixth-round pick, he is far from a household name, which makes him a perfect fit for his current role, but Hutchinson said the whole left-side/right side thing is something the linemen never discuss, not even in jest.

    "The offensive line is a group where all five guys need to be on the same page and work as a unit," he said. "If you're not working together, you're not going to get the job done. Offensive line is the tightest group of guys on a football team."

    That's why Hicks said media attention means nothing to him and his linemates. Offensive linemen, he said, just aren't wired that way.

    "We move like a herd of freakin' cattle," he said. "You never see one of us by ourselves. We're always two, three or more. That's the life of an offensive lineman in the NFL. … Look, if Matt, Hutch and McKinnie get three pancakes on the same play, and we don't get our blocks on the back side, that's still a sack. We don't care about (publicity). We're the offensive line. That's it."

    Don Seeholzer can be reached at [email protected]

    Right side OK feeling left out

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
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    Re: Right side OK feeling left out

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  3. #3
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    Re: Right side OK feeling left out

    Published August 10, 2006 12:59 am

    The left side of the offensive line has star status, but the Vikings like their right side also.

    [size=18px]Vikes know what's right on line[/size]
    Hicks, Johnson jelling on the right side

    By Chad Courrier
    The Free Press

    Matt Birk is back at center after missing a season because of injury. Guard Steve Hutchinson was the biggest, and richest, free-agent deal of the offseason. As Bryant McKinnie continues to improve, he appears to be on the verge of joining the elite left tackles in the game.

    Together, they’ve been hailed as one of the best left sides of an offensive line in the NFL, a group the Vikings can run behind when they need a tough yard. But, coach Brad Childress cautioned, an offensive line is made up of five players working together, and he’s been equally happy with guard Artis Hicks and tackle Marcus Johnson on the right side.

    “I like my right side,” Childress said. “Marcus is a year better, and I know what Artis is. I like the left side ... those five have to play together.”

    Hicks, who was acquired on a draft-day trade with Childress’ former team Philadelphia, has played on the left side for all of his four professional seasons, most of the time at guard. But the 6-foot-4, 335-pounder is making the shift to the right side, which is a more difficult transition that it might seem. The plays are the similar, just flip-flopped, and his first step is opposite of hat he’s used to.

    “I tell people it’s like being right-handed and trying to write with your left hand,” he said. “It just doesn’t feel right. The more reps I get, the more comfortable I feel.”

    Hicks has the advantage of playing four seasons in the Philadelphia system, which mirrors what the Vikings are implementing. He knows the terminology and philosophy and what’s expected of the linemen.

    “We have something to prove,” Hicks said. “When you have a left side like we do, teams are going to pay attention, but we have a job to do, too. Our job is just as important as the left.”

    Johnson, 6-6 and 321 pounds, was the team’s second-round draft choice in 2005 and became the first rookie guard in team history to start the season-opener. He ended up starting four games at right guard, where he made 45 starts at the University of Mississippi, then made four starts at right tackle.

    “Marcus is so talented,” Birk said. “If he improves as much this year as he did last year, he can be a great right tackle.”

    Johnson, who declined interview requests Tuesday and Wednesday, doesn’t say much anyway, though Hicks said his roommate is much more outgoing away from the field.

    “You might not think he says much, but he’s one of the silliest, fun guys I know,” Hicks said. “He’s nonstop humor, and he’s a genuine person. I’ve known that from the first time I met him.”

    Quarterback Brad Johnson said that opposing teams might look at Marcus Johnson as the weak link in the offensive, given his inexperience, but Brad Johnson said he’s not concerned.

    “A lot is expected out of Marcus,” he said. “He plays hard and loves it. I enjoy playing with him, no doubt.”

    Hicks and Marcus Johnson appear to be meshing quickly, which is important to give the team balance on its play-calling. If opponents figure out that the Vikings are always running left, the defense loads up that direction.

    And when the Vikings do run left, Hicks said, it’s important for him and Johnson to execute the backside blocks so defenders can’t chase the play.

    “We’re getting a feel for each other, and we’re starting to click,” Hicks said. “In this league, if you’re one-dimensional in anything you do, teams will figure you out.”

    Vikes know what's right on line

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  4. #4
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    Re: Right side OK feeling left out

    There's been a lot of people talking up Johnson this year. Both coaches & players.

    With Hicks in there & all this hype, I'm beginning to get a warm fuzzy about the right aside of the line.

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

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