Vikings coach Leslie Frazier voiced a desire at the NFL owners meetings in March to get linebacker Jasper Brinkley more involved on defense. Brinkley, entering his third season, also would like to be able to play a bigger role and this offseason he took what could be an important step in trying to make that happen.
Brinkley spent three weeks at the IMG Madden Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla., -- yes, that's the same place quarterback Christian Ponder trained -- working alongside Giants cornerback Michael Coe and focusing on doing drills designed for defensive backs in an effort to improve his footwork.
"Being at middle linebacker [in the Tampa-2 defense] you’ve got to be able to run down the middle of the field and be that third safety," said Brinkley, who started four games as a rookie at middle linebacker after E.J. Henderson was injured. Brinkley did not start a game in 2010 as Henderson returned to the starting role.
Brinkley said a main area of focus was his backpedal. “I feel very comfortable," against the pass, he said. "Two years ago I had never played a Tampa-2 middle linebacker, but now I think I’m ready for the challenge.”
The question now becomes at which position will Brinkley get this opportunity? Henderson is signed through the coming season and will return in the middle. Many consider Brinkley (6-1, 252 pounds) to be best suited to playing that spot.
The only opening might be at weak-side linebacker, if Ben Leber leaves in the upcoming (eventually) free agency period that will precede training camp. But that would be a lot to ask of Brinkley.
“Whatever the coaches think is best for me I will do," said Brinkley, who has spent recent days training with other NFL and college players at the Larry Fitzgerald-led workouts on the University of Minnesota campus. "Whether they tell me to play outside linebacker, d-line, it doesn’t matter. I think I can do it. Whatever the team needs I think I can do.”
Right guard Anthony Herrera said he is about 90 percent healed after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last November against the Green Bay Packers.
Herrera talked about his recovery Sunday with the News-Press at the youth football camp he hosted in Naples, Fla. "I've just been hanging out with the family and trying to get back in shape," Herrera said. "When [the season] comes, I want to hit the ground rolling."
In addition to the season-ending surgery on his knee, Herrera also had surgery to repair a triceps muscle this offseason.