MANKATO (AP) -- Lewis Kelly walked back to the tackling dummies after Thursday morning's practice and continued pounding away while the rest of his teammates hurried off the field.
In his third year with the Vikings, Kelly may finally get his chance to have a breakout season.
With rookie Bryant McKinnie still unsigned, head coach Mike Tice still may be able to avoid an offensive line shakeup this season if Kelly can fill in at left tackle. Kelly caught Tice's eye in Wednesday night's passing scrimmage as he rotated with Everett Lindsay.
"We're also really excited about the play of Lewis Kelly, which really gives up another option there," Tice said. "As opposed to moving other people around."
Coming into the preseason, Tice's original offensive line plan was: McKinnie at left tackle, Chris Liwienski at left guard, Matt Birk at center, David Dixon at right guard and Kelly at right tackle. But McKinnie's holdout, which entered its 13th day Thursday, threw a wrench into that.
Enter plan B: Birk shifts to left tackle and is replaced at center by backup Cory Withrow. Kelly, who strained his quadriceps early in training camp and was held out of drills, then backs up Lacina at left guard. Dixon and Liwienski would then move to right guard and right tackle.
But Kelly's progression has the coaching staff thinking twice about that plan.
If Kelly, who worked with the first team on Thursday, can hold his own at left tackle, it would allow Birk to remain at the position where he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season. Kelly, who played in three games last season, began the year with in NFL Europe with the Frankfurt Galaxy, where he started eight games in 2002.
"He'll have a good opportunity to show where he's at in his development," offensive line coach Steve Loney said.
Ultimately, though, the decision is Tice's.
"We'll look at it hard on Saturday night and look at it hard on Sunday and see how that unfolds and then we'll reevaluate what our decision is going to be there," Tice said.
If McKinnie is still a holdout on Monday, Tice had said he would start getting Birk more work in at left guard.
McKinnie's agents didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
'HE'S GOT THE TOOLS': Tice said he also was impressed by the play of second-round draft pick Raonall Smith in Wednesday night's passing scrimmage. Tice said Smith, a rookie out of Washington State, will split time on the first team with Lemanski Hall at weak-side linebacker.
"He's another guy that's big and can run and knows how to take on the guy with the ball," Tice said.
Coming into training camp, the biggest question mark over Smith's head was whether the speedy, 6-foot-2, 244-pound linebacker was physical enough.
"But he's more physical than I thought," linebackers coach Brian Baker said. "I thought that would be his only weak point."
Smith, who says he lacked size when he first started playing football in high school, saw his first live action on Wednesday night after missing last weekend's practices against Kansas City with back spasms.
"I was just running to the ball, reading my keys and trying to hit somebody," he said. "That's what they said to go out there and do, to go out there and have fun."
Baker said Smith showed versatility by battling up front and making plays in space.
"Now, he's just got to do things well consistently," Baker said. "Once he's comfortable with the scheme, then I think his ability will give him the opportunity to be a more productive player for us. ... He's got the tools."
INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker Isaac Keys sat out practice after spraining his left ankle Wednesday night. ... Wide receiver Derrick Alexander (quadriceps) and cornerback Brian Williams (hamstring) ran on the side during the morning workouts. Alexander looked to be favoring his injured left leg. Tice said Wednesday that Alexander, who was expected to challenge for the No. 2 receiver spot opposite Randy Moss this season, would not play in Saturday's preseason game against Cleveland. Meanwhile, D'Wayne Bates, Alexander's competition, made a couple of nice catches during scrimmages. ... Lacina, who is battling knee and ankle problems, likely won't play Saturday against the Browns either. Withrow would start in his place.
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