Most of us would be a little taken aback if one day our boss came through the office and introduced a new employee… who would be taking your job, while you moved to another.
In the case of Charlie Johnson, it shouldn’t have come as too big of a surprise when the Vikings used their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on USC left tackle Matt Kalil, but offensive line coach Jeff Davidson wasn’t going to treat Johnson, or the situation, like it was no big thing.
Davidson immediately set up a meeting between Kalil and Johnson to try and make sure everybody knew exactly where they stood after it became apparent that Johnson would be moving to left guard.
“I just saw (Johnson) and explained to him, ‘You two guys are going to be best friends,'” said Davidson of the meeting. “And I introduced Charlie to his family, Matt’s family, as well. They all know who he is. I said, ‘There isn’t going to be any bad blood.’ And Charlie said, ‘I just want to win games.’ He does not care where he plays this game. He just wants to help us win. That’s the type of guy he is.”
“It wasn’t anything like, ‘Aw, man. Here it goes,'” said Johnson, explaining his feelings after the Vikings selected Kalil. “It was more of an ‘Alright, let’s go. Let’s get to work.’ I came up here the next day and he was up here eating lunch and talking. And I sat down and talked with him for a minute and it was on from there. So it was no big deal.
“There is no animosity,” Johnson continued. “Look, I’m going to play. I feel that I’m one of the best five guys we have on our offensive line room. So I’m going to play. To me it doesn’t matter where it’s at.”
According to Davidson, it only took until week three of the 2011 season to figure out that Johnson might be better suited at the guard position, and he was more than willing to share that with Johnson.
“This was something that’s kind of been ongoing,” Davidson said. “I’m going to try and put it as nice as I can. I’m a no-nonsense guy. And essentially when I think that I see a guy and I know what he is capable of and what he would help us most at, I’m going to let him know that. Our postseason interviews that we had when I talked to Charlie, I said, ‘You may be our left tackle. You may be our left guard. I don’t know yet. We’re going to be better at two positions if we get a left tackle in here.”
“He is a good athlete so he was able to survive — the term I might use — at left tackle,” Davidson said of Johnson. “The fact that he has an opportunity to be able to use his athleticism as a puller, the smarts to be able to help our new left tackle, and transfer information from our center to that, he’s going to help fill the bill at guard. He can play any position on the line if we asked him to, in all honesty. I just think if we had to pick one for him it’s the offensive guard position. So this helps us in a lot of ways.”
Everyone is sure making it sound like the starting job at left guard is Johnson’s to lose, despite a hefty quantity of intriguing interior linemen ready to battle for employment during training camp. If Johnson manages to thrive in his new role with the Vikings, he could finally be looking at long term certainty for his career, and the Vikings could finally be looking at long term certainty along their offensive line.
Matt Kalil will likely sign a four year deal with a fifth year option within the next few weeks, which will cement him as the franchise’s left tackle. Center John Sullivan signed an extension in December that will keep him employed through the 2016 season. Johnson, if he sticks as a left guard, has two seasons remaining on his contract.
Perhaps we can look forward to once again having a dominant left side of our line?