Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Vikings still waiting to see Brinkley 'turn it loose' at linebacker

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Chad Greenway, Leslie Frazier Updated: August 19, 2012 - 5:37 PM

With less than three weeks left before the regular season opener, the Vikings seem to face their biggest questions at linebacker. Yes, it’s still likely the trio of Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley will open as the starters Sept. 9 against Jacksonville in the base defense. But asked Sunday if sixth-year veteran Marvin Mitchell still had a chance to climb up a rung on the depth chart, head coach Leslie Frazier shrugged.

“The door’s not closed,” Frazier said. “He has an opportunity to compete. We don’t want to shut the door yet.”

Translation: the Vikings’ coaching staff still needs to see more from middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley.

A lot more.

More confidence. More quickness. More decisiveness.

After losing his 2011 season to hip surgery, Brinkley is still cleaning the rust away and has had no problem admitting he’s had a long climb back. After a three-week training camp and two preseason games, Brinkley has shown little to prove he’ll be the long-term answer at middle linebacker.

“The game is a whole lot faster than practice,” Brinkley said after a light practice Sunday afternoon. “I’ve been away from the game for a year. And each preseason game, I take it and go with it. Because I know it’s a learning experience … I have to train my eyes again and [refine] my footwork. That’s the first thing you lose when you’re away from the game for a year: eyes and footwork.”

Acknowledging that need for improvement is a decent first step. But the Vikings are going to need more than self-awareness at middle linebacker if they are going to solidify a defense that allowed 358.2 yards per game in 2011. And if Brinkley can’t perform up to expectation, it wouldn’t be a total shocker if Henderson moved to play middle linebacker with Mitchell than supplanting him at weakside linebacker.

Henderson and Greenway have been the two linebackers on the Vikings’ first-unit nickel defense. And while Greenway thinks Brinkley is steadily showing added comfort in the huddle, he acknowledges that there’s plenty of room to grow.

“It’s not there yet,” Greenway said. “But it’s not supposed to be … You need that in-game action. When you see something [on a play], you might see it but not make the play. Because you don’t have that reaction back yet to, boom, go and get it. So much of it is getting that burst back, that mode where you’re comfortable enough with what you’re doing, not questioning your own motives and movements and you just let loose.”

After Friday’s 36-14 win over Buffalo, Frazier was again open in questioning whether Brinkley was fully engaged from an aggressive standpoint to perform up to potential.

“He has to get his timing down,” Frazier said. “He has to get comfortable and he has to believe, ‘I’m not going to get hurt. I can play fast and I can play hard.’ We want to give him extended reps because of that reason.”

Asked to elaborate on that statement Sunday, the Vikings head coach said that over the past four months there have been signs that Brinkley has been tentative, perhaps still conscious of his injury woes.

Brinkley missed portions of the team’s organized team activities and the summer mini-camp with groin and hip issues.

“I thought early on, there was some of that [tentativeness],” Frazier said. “I wasn’t altogether surprised with all of the time he’s missed. When he tried to practice in the OTAs in the offseason, to have trouble then, that will plant a seed in your mind that that could be a guy who’s going to struggle with injuries.

“So to see a little bit of that tentativeness early on wasn’t a surprise. But the more he’s played and the more comfortable and more confident he’s become. We have to keep putting him in those situations so he can just turn it loose and not worry about getting injured.”


Houston 2 FINAL
St. Louis 5
Washington 9 FINAL
Atlanta 8
Miami 5 FINAL
Boston 3
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 1
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 5
Detroit - LP: J. Mantiply 4 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: C. Torres 5
Cincinnati 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Los Angeles 10 FINAL
Milwaukee 1
San Francisco 12 FINAL
Texas 3
Chicago WSox 0 FINAL
San Diego 5
Kansas City 11 FINAL
Cleveland 9
Seattle 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 7
Colorado 0 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 7 FINAL
Arizona 2
Pittsburgh 3 Bottom 5th Inning
NY Yankees 0
Chicago 62 3rd Qtr 1:17
Indiana 63
Sacramento 83 3rd Qtr 1:27
Orlando 90
Utah 56 3rd Qtr 2:31
Philadelphia 52
Miami 69 3rd Qtr 1:28
Washington 88
Toronto 71 4th Qtr 11:41
Charlotte 77
Cleveland 43 3rd Qtr
Atlanta 53
Boston 43 2nd Qtr 5:46
New Orleans 37
Detroit 29 2nd Qtr 8:38
Houston 32
LA Lakers 27 2nd Qtr 6:52
Memphis 32
Phoenix 23 2nd Qtr 10:15
Brooklyn 26
Denver 6 1st Qtr 9:33
San Antonio 7
Dallas 9:30 PM
Golden State
Columbus 3 3rd Prd
New Jersey 1
Minnesota 1 3rd Prd
Carolina 1
Buffalo 2 2nd Prd 12:45
Ottawa 1
Calgary 2 2nd Prd 12:37
Detroit 2
Edmonton 0 1st Prd 16:26
Chicago 0
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Longwood 68 FINAL
Char Southern 60
Ark-Pine Bluff 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 75
Southern Ill 45 FINAL
Wichita State 56
Winthrop 67 FINAL
Radford 66
Evansville 67 FINAL
Illinois State 71
Towson 69 FINAL
Elon 74
Gardner-Webb 72 FINAL
High Point 71
Samford 76 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Northern Ill 42 2nd Half 9:06
Ball State 38
Bowling Green 54 2nd Half 9:33
Buffalo 53
Brown 64 2nd Half 4:23
Dartmouth 56
Toledo 51 2nd Half 4:55
Eastern Mich 69
Akron 59 2nd Half 6:18
Kent State 63
Ill-Chicago 57 2nd Half 3:11
Oakland 56
Miami-Ohio 63 2nd Half 2:48
Ohio 92
Columbia 32 2nd Half 3:53
Penn 39
Cornell 51 2nd Half 1:35
Princeton 59
Central Mich 44 2nd Half 8:46
Western Mich 53
Bradley 39 2nd Half 7:06
Northern Iowa 61
Morehead State 32 2nd Half
Murray State 43
UNC-Asheville 7:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Yale 22 1st Half 1:47
Harvard 17
Furman 6 1st Half 15:34
Citadel 5
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
Texas Tech 8:00 PM
Pacific 8:00 PM
San Francisco
Detroit 8:30 PM
Cleveland State
Belmont 8:30 PM
Eastern Ky
Loyola-Chicago 8:35 PM
Indiana State
Loyola Marymount 10:30 PM
Santa Clara
Chicago 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
(21) George Washington 77
Wake Forest 68 FINAL
(16) Duke 77
Furman 55 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 68
Monmouth 61 FINAL
Quinnipiac 82
Michigan State 60 FINAL
(4) Maryland 70
Belmont 65 FINAL
UT Martin 71
Arkansas 36 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 58
Mercer 56 FINAL
East Tenn St 66
Richmond 45 FINAL
Fordham 46
Miami-Florida 61 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Siena 61 FINAL
Iona 71
Washington St 48 FINAL
(9) Arizona State 67
Ark-Pine Bluff 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 51
(23) Rutgers 57 FINAL
(24) Northwestern 62
Tennessee St 71 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 59
Loyola Marymount 50 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
(18) Texas A&M 65 FINAL
LSU 71
Cincinnati 76 FINAL
UCF 66
Saint Josephs 61 FINAL
Dayton 80
(19) Stanford 67
Santa Clara 42 FINAL
San Diego 51
Virginia Tech 43 FINAL
(7) Florida State 82
Memphis 71
Lehigh 75 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
North Florida 35 FINAL
(20) Fla Gulf Coast 74
Lafayette 56 FINAL
American Univ 79
(13) Princeton 70 FINAL
Cornell 37
Harvard 68 FINAL
Yale 63
Rhode Island 51 2nd Half 0:40
Duquesne 59
Kennesaw St 47 2nd Half 2:53
Jacksonville 54
USC Upstate 36 2nd Half 4:00
Northern Ky 52
Lipscomb 64 2nd Half 2:18
Stetson 84
Nebraska 50 2nd Half 5:42
(14) Iowa 60
Saint Peters 57 2nd Half 0:20
Marist 61
Navy 59 2nd Half 0:30
Bucknell 47
Colgate 38 2nd Half 3:07
Army 36
Georgia 33 2nd Half 3:44
(5) Tennessee 66
Dartmouth 71 2nd Half
Brown 53
Penn 45 2nd Half 2:52
Columbia 32
Kansas 46 2nd Half 4:04
Kansas State 46
(15) North Carolina 11 1st Half 11:35
(10) Louisville 12
San Jose St 50 1st Half 0:44
Houston 0 1st Half 16:41
Tulane 6
Utah State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Colorado 8:00 PM
(8) Oregon State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
Minnesota 8:25 PM
Ohio State
(12) Kentucky 8:25 PM
(11) Miss State
San Diego State 8:30 PM
Niagara 8:30 PM
Texas Tech 8:30 PM
West Virginia
Boise State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Washington 10:30 PM
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9




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