Hartman: Brinkley thrilled to be back with Vikings

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 14, 2014 - 11:56 PM
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Jasper Brinkley found himself back at Winter Park last month after spending last year with the Cardinals. Brinkley played four seasons with the Vikings, including serving as their starting middle linebacker under Leslie Frazier on 2012’s playoff team.

Photo: RICHARD SENNOTT • rsennott@startribune.com,

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The Vikings selected Jasper Brinkley in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft out of South Carolina, and he played here for four seasons before the Cardinals won out over the Giants for the free-agent linebacker last offseason.

Brinkley, by his own admission, didn’t have a great season last year, and Arizona released him Feb. 28 in a salary cap move. That opened the door for his return to the Vikings on a one-year deal.

“I had an OK, so-so year [in Arizona], it wasn’t what I expected,” he said. “I had a small groin injury there, had a tweaked groin and was just trying to get back on the field. But they played great last year.”

Brinkley spent his first two years with the Vikings primarily as a backup, totaling 48 tackles and one forced fumble in 2009 and ’10. He missed all of 2011 due to a hip injury, but he came back to win a starting job at middle linebacker in 2012, when he had 99 tackles and forced three fumbles.

While playing with the Cardinals, Brinkley had only 27 tackles, 23 of them solo. He started only three of 15 games and didn’t mesh well with the team’s 3-4 defensive scheme.

Brinkley said that he’s happy to be back with the Vikings.

“You know, it feels great. It feels great to be back,” he said. “This is where I started, and this is like family.”

He was asked if there was any particular reason he decided to return to Minnesota.

“This is where it started, where everything started for me,” Brinkley said. “This has always been home for me. I had the opportunity to come back home, and I wanted to utilize that opportunity.”

Brinkley added that he wasn’t surprised that the Vikings wanted him back, despite the fact that he had a difficult year last season.

“The guys around here they knew what I brought to the table,” he said, “and they know I’m a ferocious run defender, and I’m going to leave it all out on the field.”

Brinkley will be playing middle linebacker this season under defensive coordinator George Edwards and said the new system will be different from what he saw with the Cardinals, and what he previously played with the Vikings.

“It’s not based out of Cover-2 here,” Brinkley said. “It has been going pretty good [so far], you know, just a learning process trying to get the new scheme down and get comfortable with it.”

Likes young pitchers

If the Twins ever decide they need starting pitching help, veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki believes they have two young arms at Class AAA Rochester who are prepared for the big-league club.

Suzuki has had the opportunity to catch a number of the Twins best pitching prospects, including Kyle Gibson in the majors this year, and Trevor May and Alex Meyer in spring training.

Suzuki talked about the early impressions he got from May and Meyer, who are impressing at Rochester. May is 6-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 67 strikeouts over 66⅓ innings, and Meyer is 4-3 with a 3.62 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 64⅔ innings.

“They’re definitely power arms. Those two guys have really good arms, they throw the ball extremely hard and they can pitch,” Suzuki said. “They’re guys that have an idea of what they want to do out there, and they’re not just up there throwing as hard as they can. They have good arms but they also have a feel for pitching.

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