Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Riley Reiff on Vikings Preparations: 'Every Minute's Crucial'


Aug 10, 2020 at 03:19 PM

Eric Smith

Team Reporter

EAGAN, Minn. — Riley Reiff is a grizzled veteran in the NFL, and not just because of the wooly beard he sports along the offensive line.


The starting left tackle also has 112 career starts between his time in Minnesota and Detroit, which makes him the most experienced lineman the Vikings have on either side of the line.


The other offensive linemen on Minnesota's roster have 129 combined career starts, and that's split up between seven players. A handful of linemen — five of them — have never played an NFL snap.


So yes, as Reiff enters his ninth season after being a first-round pick back in 2012, it's safe to say he's looked at as a leader along the line.


And with such a unique offseason in the books, it's a role that Reiff — a team captain in his first three seasons in Purple — is embracing even more.


"Obviously being the oldest guy, I think they kind of put that in there, but I'm an open book," Reiff said Monday in a rare chat with the Twin Cities media. "If anybody has a question to me, I welcome it, actually.


"I don't have everything figured out, either. There's a lot of stuff that still, even going into Year 9, where I'm asking questions," Reiff added. "These young guys, I hope they reach out to me and ask me about this or that."


And to be clear, Reiff will take on that responsibility from his usual left tackle spot. Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said as much last week, and Reiff emphasized again Monday there wasn't much chatter about him potentially moving to guard.


"I didn't hear anything about that," Reiff said. "Heck, I'll play whatever as long as it helps the team."


So as Reiff enters his ninth season overall and fourth in Minnesota, he'll be tasked once again with protecting Kirk Cousins' blindside and opening up holes for a rushing attack that consistently wants to pound the ball.


He drew Kubiak's praise a week ago for his professionalism and work ethic.


"I think Riley played really well for us last year," Kubiak said. "I think we can do some things offensively and me as a play caller to help all our players and help Riley more, from that standpoint.


"I'm a big Riley Reiff fan. I love him as a person, a player and a leader on our team. Nobody comes here more ready to work than Riley. It showed," Kubiak added. "We haven't seen these guys [practice yet], but watching him walk in, you can see his detail. Expecting Riley to have a great year."


Reiff rattled off a few things he's focused on as camp ramps up, and also touched on getting the chance for some offensive continuity.


And although Kubiak will be Reiff's fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons, the South Dakota native said he's looking forward to being in a similar scheme again. Kubiak did not call plays in 2020, but he did have a strong influence on the offensive system.


"We went through a few offensive coordinators and they've all been great. Some things I'd like to work on are obviously pass pro," Reiff said. "I think I can get better in run blocking, too. It's just going out there and being consistent every week. That's what pros do. I'm looking forward to going out there and putting in the work and then producing on game days.


"We've got total trust in Gary. Gary's been around, and Gary's won football games," Reiff later added. "I'm excited to play in this offense, and it's a fun offense, and we're putting in the work right now and getting ready for that home opener."


It remains to be seen how the starting five along the offensive line shakes out, but three starters to pencil in as of now appear to be Reiff and Brian O'Neill at the tackle spots, along with second-year center Garrett Bradbury.


O'Neill has started 26 games, and Bradbury became the first Vikings rookie to start all 16 games of a season at center. Pat Elflein, who ranks second on the line with 42 total starts, played center in his first two seasons then shifted to left guard in 2019.


Elflein could be back in that role again, or the Vikings may take a look at other players during practices in leading up to a scheduled Week 1 home game against the Packers on Sept. 13.


As the Vikings embark on a season that could look different from all others — Minnesota will rely on its most-veteran lineman to help get his group ready to go both on and off the field.


"We haven't been here long," Reiff said. "There's some familiar faces back and then there's some new guys. With the offseason we've had, every minute's crucial. Excited to get to work with them more as camp progresses. We've just got to put in the time together, that's how the O-line jells.


"I've been in the room with them, but with split fields and stuff, I haven't been able to see them that much. They seem like a real smart group, and I'm excited to help them in any way that I can," Reiff added. "I've been around. I mean, I wasn't here in the lockout year, but it's going to happen fast, the season's going to come up on us. I know it sounds generic, but the minutes that we do get to work this camp are going to be crucial."

Popular Posts