- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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MANKATO, Minn. -- The first signs of how difficult 2014 would be for Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil came in training camp. Kalil headed to practice each day knowing he wouldn't be able to do much more than try to maintain his skills. His health wasn't going to permit extra work, and Kalil wasn't sure if he'd be able to trust his knees fully in games.
After a pair of knee surgeries this past spring, this training camp is already a different story. Kalil is doing extra footwork drills with Vikings coaches during practices. He's got time to click with Brandon Fusco after the former right guard moved to Kalil's side of the line. And his health, Kalil says, is no longer the first thing on his mind.
"Football is fun again," he said. "You can actually work on stuff. You can improve; you can get better. That's what I feel I'm doing right now, especially going against Everson [Griffen]. That's making me a lot better."
Kalil, it should be noted, has had his hands full with Griffen in both pass-rushing drills and full-team settings, and the Vikings will need to see him stand up to pass-rushers of Griffen's caliber during the season. There's likely going to be a significant amount of money riding on Kalil's ability to do it, and it's tough to see the Vikings making anything out of considerable preseason buzz if the offensive line isn't better than it was last year, when Bridgewater was pressured 29.9 percent of the time.
The fact he's healthy before a five-game preseason should help him make up for lost time last year. Kalil said he didn't know how long Vikings starters would play during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night. But the Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers were the first teams to start training camp, which meant extra opportunities for Kalil to try to improve.
Last year, that wasn't even a realistic objective.
"I'm stronger, bigger. I'm quick again on my feet," he said. "It's about getting that back. It's just a year of bad technique -- you've kind of got to break all those habits. But it's going along well."
259dJames Walker and Kevin Seifert