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Zimmer to keep eye on O-line in preseason opener

CINCINNATI -- When the Vikings open the preseason Friday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, plenty of eyes will be on the offensive line. Brandon Fusco sat out Thursday's joint practice with the Bengals and was replaced at right guard by Joe B...

CINCINNATI - When the Vikings open the preseason Friday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, plenty of eyes will be on the offensive line.

Brandon Fusco sat out Thursday's joint practice with the Bengals and was replaced at right guard by Joe Berger. Berger has been alternating at center with John Sullivan, who was with the first team Thursday.

Zimmer declined to say if Fusco, who also missed a practice Saturday after suffering an undisclosed injury the day before, will play in the game at Paul Brown Stadium or how he will handle the battle at center.

"You'll find out," Zimmer said after the conclusion of two days of workouts with the Bengals.

Zimmer declined to say if Fusco is assured of starting at right guard or whether it's possible Berger could end up there. Zimmer said he wants to see more before deciding.

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"I have to see all these different (combinations) because when we start getting into the season and we dress seven offensive linemen, I've got to see who can play guard and who can play tackle and who can play left and right," he said.

On defense, safety Anthony Harris was present but sat out practice.

Among players eligible to practice, 10 did not travel with the team to Cincinnati. Zimmer said two players who had family emergencies could show up by Friday's game, although the same 10 were absent Thursday as had been Wednesday.

Not on hand were receiver Jarius Wright; running back Jhurrell Pressley; cornerbacks Terence Newman, Marcus Sherels and Melvin White; defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Scott Crichton; and linebackers Eric Kendricks, Edmond Robinson and Brandon Watts.

Sherels' brother, University of Minnesota linebackers coach Mike Sherels, has been hospitalized since having unexpected surgery Tuesday.

Brothers to get long look

With three linebackers ruled out, there will be an opportunity Friday for rookie Kentrell Brothers to get plenty of snaps.

Brothers was taken in the fifth round of April's draft out of Missouri.

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"I get an opportunity to come out here and show why the Vikings drafted me," Brothers said. "Every opportunity, you got to make the most of it."

After playing weakside linebacker in college, Brothers has been playing in the middle with Minnesota. Zimmer likes what he's seen so far.

"He's a downhill plugger," Zimmer said. "He thumps in there pretty good in the running game. He has just got to continue to improve in the passing game."

There is plenty of competition at linebacker. The Vikings have 10 on the roster, meaning four likely will end up being cut.

Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr, Kendricks, Emmanuel Lamur and Robinson look assured of making it, which could leave Brothers, Audie Cole, Brandon Watts, Terrance Plummer and Jake Ganus battling for one spot.

McKinnon on display

With running back Adrian Peterson not playing Friday, third-year man Jerick McKinnon will be on display. He vows to be ready.

"It's a good chance to let it loose," McKinnon said. "It should be a great time to show the coaches what you can do in game-time situations."

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McKinnon almost certainly will get some carries and perhaps some receptions, but he hopes also to work on another part of his game.

"I don't know how much I'll get to play, but I want to have a couple of pass (protection) pickups," he said. "Any opportunity that's given to me, just make the most of it."

Joint practices go well

Zimmer had high hopes for the joint practices with the Bengals. They lived up to his expectations.

"Both teams acted in a professional manner," said Zimmer, Cincinnati's defensive coordinator from 2008-13. "We got a lot of work done. ... We got some situations stuff in. We got to pass rush against other people. We got to pass protect against good defensive linemen."

Wednesday's practice was two hours and in full pads. Thursday's workout was one hour with the teams in shoulder pads.

Safety Harrison Smith said "both teams benefited from" the practices. Lamur, who played the past four years with the Bengals, called it a "fun process just reuniting with the guys."

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