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 EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Tarvaris Jackson will have company under the microscope. Spotlights are wide, after all. There's always room for two.
Recovering from a sprained right knee sustained 2 1/2 weeks ago, Minnesota's raw starting quarterback - considered the key to this promising year for the Vikings - will find no more scrutiny next Monday night in Green Bay than teammate Artis Hicks.
Hicks has taken over at left tackle, Jackson's most important protector, following the four-game suspension of stalwart Bryant McKinnie for violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy.
practicing on the left side of the line since the spring.
``He's a natural left-sided guy,'' coach Brad Childress said, adding: ``You ask any guy whether they're more comfortable in a left-hand stance or a right-hand stance, they honestly would tell you left-handed.''
Hicks is a seven-year veteran who has started 49 of the 66 games he's appeared in since beginning his career with Philadelphia, so it's not as though he's new to this.
``He can do the job just fine,'' Childress said. ``Is there going to be a tight end playing on the outside of him? At times there is going to be. Will he get chip help every now and then? I'm sure. But you can say that about right tackle and left tackle. If somebody has a good player, you have to account for them. Artis has been to handling school, from the standpoint that he's lined up and played in there. He's started as a left guard. He's started as a left tackle with about two hours' notice. I know he knows what the ramping-up process is and what it is he has to get done against some pretty good rushers over there.''
As he has frequently during training camp, Hicks dodged reporters following Tuesday's practice. His linemates were predictably praising.
``Artis has always done a great job wherever he's needed,'' center Matt Birk said.
Left guard Steve Hutchinson said he's ``absolutely'' confident in having Hicks next to him for the first four games.
``He obviously hasn't been in there as much as McKinnie, but he's played in all the preseason games and all the practices so he's ready to go,'' Hutchinson said. ``One guy goes down, the next guy steps in. That's how this game works.''
Jackson, for his part, said the knee was feeling much better and insisted the injury no longer limits any on-field activities. After acknowledging earlier he wouldn't be 100 percent healed before it was time to face the Packers, Jackson said Tuesday he regretted that prediction and claimed now it would not be true once he steps on Lambeau Field.
He reiterated his guarantee of playing against Green Bay.
``I'm not too far away, so I'll just come out here each day and try to get back in a rhythm,'' he said, unsure yet whether he would wear a brace on the knee for the game.
Childress, however, sounded more skeptical.
``He's looking like a pirate with a wooden leg right now, out there moving around,'' the coach said. ``He's kind of making spot throws and standing in one place. He really has no movement skills to speak of at all. It looks like he has cement shoes on.''
Asked if he was worried about the quarterback's mobility, Childress expressed more a bit more confidence.
``If you'd have asked me 10 days ago, I would have said, 'Yes,''' he said. ``But I know how he's working at it. I know what he's putting into it over the course of this past weekend. I think he'll build to where he's going to be OK.''
As for the absence of his 6-foot-8, at-least-335-pound left tackle, Jackson just shrugged.
``I have the great-most confidence in Artis,'' he said, adding: ``He's pretty much played everywhere on the offensive line, except center. He's going to help us out a lot. I don't feel like it's going to be a great dropoff.''

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