When Riley Reiff left practice on Day 1 of full-squad training camp, everyone – even the players on the offensive line – had the same sentiment: Oh, not this again.
The Vikings’ offensive line was shredded by injuries in 2016. Both tackles were lost for the year by Week 3, off-the-street free agent Jake Long had a career-ending injury and all three interior offensive linemen suffered concussions.
All the injuries left the Vikings searching every inch of the earth for capable offensive linemen. After Long went down against Washington, the Vikings signed Rashod Hill, a 6-foot-6, 310-pound undrafted tackle from Southern Mississippi.
On New Year’s Day, shortly after Hill had seen snow for the first time in his life, he got an opportunity to play and left a lasting impression.
“We like Rashod Hill and what he showed when he came in,” GM Rick Spielman said on move-in day. “We signed him late in the season and how he played in that last game against Chicago and how he progressed.”
Per Pro Football Focus, the former Southern Mississippi linemen did not allow any QB pressures in Week 17 and scored a 78.5 on their rating system. To put that in context, TJ Clemmings scored a 31.0 for the season, the second worst in the NFL.
“It was really important [to play against Chicago] and I think the coaches trusted me when TJ went down and I went in,” Hill said on Friday. “It was good for them to see that I can play.”
If you want to know how a team feels about a player, focus on what they do rather than what they say. The Vikings had plenty of opportunities to sign veteran backup tackles in free agency, but decided to stick with Hill as their No. 2.
When Reiff suffered an undisclosed injury, Hill’s first practice assignment was to match up with Everson Griffen – a Pro Bowler who just signed a long-term contract extension making him a Viking for life.
“You can’t take a play off when you’re facing [the first team] because they’ll…