MANKATO — Brandon Fusco wanted to win the starting job at right guard through hard work and on-field production, but he also knows a little break along the way is helpful, too.
With his top competitor Geoff Schwartz sidelined for another month or so, Fusco sees his best chance of becoming a starter in the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line.
“You never hope for someone to get injured,” Fusco said. “Geoff is a good player, and it’s unfortunate. But it’s an opportunity for me to show the coaches that they can trust me.”
Schwartz, who was rotating with Fusco on the starting line, left camp late last week to have an MRI in the Twin Cities and was diagnosed with a sports hernia. He’s scheduled for surgery today, and coach Leslie Frazier said a prognosis would be made after the surgery, though he put the rehab time anywhere from 4 to 10 weeks.
On Monday, Fusco, a second-year player from Slippery Rock who was acquired in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, got the most work with the starters.
“I’m going to go out there same as I would anytime,” he said. “I just want to do my job and improve every day.”
Frazier said that he's not ready to name Fusco a starter for Week 1 against Jacksonville, and Chris DeGeare and Joe Berger will get reps in practice at right guard.
“We want to see (Fusco) is some game situations against other teams in the preseason and then make a declaration,” Frazier said. “We’ll continue to have some competition at that position.”
Fusco said that he’s had his ups and downs through the first 10 days of training camp, and he’s still working to master the offense and his technique. He credits center John Sullivan with helping him get acclimated to the line, which is set with Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt at tackles and Charlie Johnson at guard.
“I’m starting to get everything down,” Fusco said. “The coaches are helping me to become a different player, and I don’t want to let them down.”
Sullivan said that despite the injury to Schwartz, as well as a couple other backup linemen, he’s seeing improvement to a unit that struggled some last season.
“I think the line is coming together pretty well,” Sullivan said. “We’ve made some mistakes, but we’re playing physically and getting good work.”