MANKATO – Middle linebacker is a leadership position. A position that requires someone to set the defense, make adjustments and have a thorough working knowledge of where his teammates are supposed to be on any particular play.
With that in mind, it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Vikings coach Leslie Frazier dropped a somewhat surprising bit of news Thursday that former Packer Desmond Bishop would be starting out at outside linebacker when training camp practices begin on Friday.
Listening to Bishop speak later certainly confirmed Frazier’s explanation that Bishop’s priority needs to be getting himself up to speed in a new defense before taking on the added duties that come at middle linebacker.
“Right now,” said Bishop, “I’m just trying to remember all the names that are being thrown at me.”
Bishop didn’t sign until June 24. He missed all the organized team activities, the minicamp and even a chance to say hello to his new teammates before they scattered for their pre-camp time off.
“I really feel like a rookie,” Bishop said. “I don’t know many of the guys. Many guys don’t know me. I have to go in and prove myself. I don’t know how things operate, so I’m kind of like a rookie in the sense of being a deer in the headlights.”
For now at least, Bishop will work at weak side linebacker while Erin Henderson, the weak side starter the past two seasons, will man the middle, which he’s done the entire offseason.
Frazier didn’t rule out making a change later if the scheme is a bad fit for Bishop or if “we had trouble inside.” Frazier said he thinks the position is a good fit for Bishop.
“One of the things I liked is he’s a very good blitzer,” Frazier said. “He has some good athletic ability. That’s what we look for in our outside backers. Guys who have the ability to win one-on-one with halfbacks and fullbacks, but yet they’re good in coverage as well and can take on lead blockers. He’s shown he can do that.”
Many eyes will be on Bishop for another reason. He hasn’t played since tearing a hamstring last preseason. The last time he played in the regular season, he had 115 tackles and five sacks for the Packers in 2011.
“I think I’ll be fine,” Bishop said. “I put myself through some rigorous workouts the past two or three months just to see where I’m at. It’s nothing like actually putting the pads on and banging around, but I feel good.”
As for the switch to the 4-3, Bishop kind of laughs. He joined the Packers in 2007. The Packers didn’t switch to a 3-4 until defensive coordinator Dom Capers arrived in 2009.
“I’ve played all three positions in the 4-3,” Bishop said. “I just recently switched to a 3-4 and everybody was asking, ‘How are you going to adjust to playing in the 3-4?’ It’s pretty simple. I think switching back to a 4-3 won’t be too hard. I think it’ll be all right.”