As the NFL world continues to buzz about Adrian Peterson's bold goal of 2,500 yards rushing this season, one of the strongest points in the debate that it could be an outside possibility is that he has one of the league's better offensive lines in front of him.
That wasn't always the case. As recently as two years ago, it was viewed as a partial liability. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie had been sent packing and center John Sullivan was coming off an injury-plagued season. The Vikings were patching an offensive line together and making the best of a bad situation.
Two years later, the Vikings are looking at the O-line from a completely different perspective. Matt Kalil is set to be an anchor on the left side for the next decade and right tackle Phil Loadholt signed a four-year, $25 million extension in March, just days before he was scheduled to become a free agent.
As the days ticked down to the opening of free agency, Loadholt wasn't sure if a deal was going to get done. He was confident that he earned a second contract with the Vikings, but, given the priority teams place on offensive tackles, he knew there would be other options. From his perspective, it was simply a matter of playing the waiting game.
"By the end of the year, I felt I had done everything I could do," Loadholt said. "I wasn't really too concerned. I was excited about the whole process. I was excited about getting the deal done. I wanted to stay here and it all worked out in the end."
Loadholt was a little concerned that a deal hadn't been struck prior to the end of the 2012 season. The Vikings have a history of signing players to extensions before they get to the free agent market, often doing so late in the season. When that didn't happen for Loadholt, there were some concerns that it might not get done, but he remained positive and, in the end, didn't let the lack of a deal bother him because it was out of his control. He had done his part.
"It's a process, and for me that process meant waiting," Loadholt said. "There was nothing else I could do. I had put in my work on the field and let the film speak for itself. At that time, it was gearing up to hopefully come back here and, if I did get to free agency, I was willing to let my film speak for itself and get signed. Everything worked out great."
Loadholt knows the business side of the sport causes teams to make difficult decisions when it comes to how they spend their money. Some players stay and other players go. It's part of business life in the NFL. Deep down, he was hoping the Vikings would step up with a contract offer and was relieved when the deal got done in the hours before the start of free agency. While he has only lived in Minnesota four years, it has become his adopted home and he would like to spend the rest of his career wearing the purple and gold.
"I definitely consider Minnesota home," Loadholt said. "My family lives her year-round. I love it here. My kids love it here. My wife loves it here. That's one of the main reasons I wanted to come back so badly. This feels like my home now and my family wanted to stay. I'm just happy we were able to get a contract done, because this is where I want to be and where my family wants to be. In this business, you never know what's going to happen. I'm just happy we got a deal done and I can be part of what we're building here."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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