Detroit Lions’ fans know the heartbreak of losing a key player on their team, especially when that retirement is, by league standard, a bit premature. Obviously, the loss of Calvin Johnson is still a wound too fresh to fully acknowledge. However, losing a player right before training camp is an entirely different hardship to take on — as Lions’ fans know thanks to Barry Sanders.
The Minnesota Vikings find themselves in that very situation, albeit with a less spectacular player than Johnson or Sanders. Starting right tackle Phil Loadholt is expected to announce his retirement from the NFL on Monday.
Vikings' OT Phil Loadholt is expected to retire pending meeting with team officials today, sources told @caplannfl and me.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 25, 2016
Though Loadholt was expected to start at right tackle, the Vikings are somewhat prepared for his departure. After Loadholt missed the entire 2015 season with an Achilles injury, Minnesota inked free agent Andre Smith to a one-year, $3.5 million contract this offseason. Smith is expected to compete with 2015 fourth-round draft pick T.J. Clemmings for the starting position on the right side.
Clemmings filled in for Loadholt in 2015 and went through a lot of growing pains in his rookie year. The Vikings were in the midst of moving Clemmings to the left side — as a backup to Matt Kalil — where his skillset is a better fit. But the late retirement of Loadholt may have them re-evaluating that plan.
In addition to Loadholt, two other players announced their retirement on Monday: former Vikings and Packers receiver Greg Jennings and standout Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. We wish them all the best in their respective retirements.