Vikings' Schwartz just wants chance to start
JUN 26, 2012 3:24p ET
With the Vikings, Schwartz could compete for a starting spot and rejoin offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who used to be his position boss with the Carolina Panthers. Schwartz, 25, badly wanted the chance to prove again he's a starting-caliber offensive lineman after starting 19 straight games with the Panthers in 2009 and 2010.
He believes the only thing keeping him back is his health.
"Just need to get back on the field," Schwartz said this month during Minnesota's organized team activities. "That's basically what it is. Get 100 percent healthy and let my play do the talking."
Unfortunately for Schwartz, a 16-game starter for Carolina in 2010, he is still working his way back from labrum surgery on his hip.
Meanwhile, Brandon Fusco -- a second-year player who coaches and general manager Rick Spielman have spoken highly of -- took the first-team repetitions at right guard during last week's minicamp. Schwartz has worked into Minnesota's offense as much as possible, most often in the right guard spot with the second-team offensive line.
Davidson, for one, isn't giving the job away yet and is excited to see if his former protégé is close to returning to starting form.
"I'd say the jury's still out on that right now," Davidson said. "We're hopeful."
The 6-foot-6, 331-pound Schwartz drew interest from the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers in free agency, but his familiarity with Davidson made Minnesota too good to pass up.
"It's one the main reasons why I decided to come here," Schwartz said. "I was with Davidson for three years in Carolina. He's a great coach. I like his philosophy, how he teaches the offensive line. So, it was kind of an easy choice to come here."
And with Minnesota releasing its two starting guards from last season, there was an opportunity to earn a starting spot. Those considerations led him to sign a one-year contract worth up to $1.5 million.
Schwartz said he is feeling good after surgery and is working to regain his strength and stamina. He is more comfortable playing guard even though he was drafted in the seventh round out of Oregon as a tackle in 2008 and eventually earned a starting role at tackle with the Panthers. He's embracing the chance to compete at guard.
"Tackle is more like an emergency-type role," Schwartz said. "Guard is where I feel I'm best at, and I think coaches agree with that."
Davidson agrees but said Schwartz can hold his own on the outside at tackle with his size and strength.
"He's a smart guy," Davidson said. "We think he's going to serve multiple roles for us, realistically. I've seen him play guard. I've seen him play tackle. And I'm talking about in a starting role. So, I'm not going to be too concerned if we do have to make a change out there or if he ends up challenging for the starting spot. We feel pretty comfortable with that."
Schwartz, too, feels comfortable knowing he signed with a team that knows he has the ability to start.
"I believe I'm a starter," Schwartz said. "So I was looking at spots that had competition at my position, and this is one of them. So it was another reason why, I came to compete."
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