MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings emerged from the first phase of free agency and then the draft, still missing a starting linebacker.
Then the Green Bay Packers let Desmond Bishop go, and the solution seemed so obvious.
The Vikings announced Thursday the signing of Bishop to a one-year contract, three days after he agreed to terms on his deal. He's the latest to leave Green Bay for Minnesota, joining prominent players like wide receiver Greg Jennings, safety Darren Sharper, kicker Ryan Longwell and of course quarterback Brett Favre to recently switch states in the post-prime stage of their careers.
This back-and-forth has further spiced up the rivalry, particularly between the ardent followers of each team, with Vikings fans gloating about all the success Favre, Sharper and Longwell enjoyed in Minnesota and Packers backers criticizing the Vikings for pursuing so many of Green Bay's aging castoffs.
Even lesser-known guys like Robert Ferguson, Javon Walker and Mike Montgomery have put on purple after discarding their green-and-gold jerseys over the past decade. The Vikings also offered contracts to William Henderson and James Jones and in 2005 tried to sign restricted free agent Aaron Kampman, the best pass-rusher the Packers had at the time. Green Bay kept all of them.
Bishop became available when the Packers released him just two weeks ago. He thrived during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, playing one of the inside linebacker spots in Green Bay's 3-4 defense. In 2011, he had career highs in tackles (142) and sacks (five). But Bishop tore his right hamstring during an exhibition game and couldn't play at all in 2012.
The injury required more than six months of rehabilitation before he was able to run full speed again.
"One-hundred percent and ready to go," Bishop said.
The seventh-year veteran, however, said he's not worried about being rusty this season.
"After watching a guy by the name of Adrian Peterson come back from his torn ACL and how well he did, I have an extreme amount of confidence that I can do the same," Bishop said on a conference call with Minnesota reporters. He added: "It's still a process. You have to still build on your strength and your endurance and all those kind of little things and you can never max out on that stuff, so I'm still to this day working on trying to get as strong as I can and I feel really good."
Bishop said his motivation to join Minnesota was based on helping a 2012 playoff team try to go even further this season, not revenge on his ex-employer. After brushing off the significance of playing against Green Bay, the team that drafted him in the sixth round in 2007, Bishop eventually acknowledged the excitement of returning to Lambeau Field to face all those former teammates of his.
And to try to stop one of the NFL's most potent offenses.
"I'm just a very competitive person, and Aaron Rodgers is considered the best in my eyes at quarterback, so it'll be a good opportunity," Bishop said.
In addition to Bishop's health, the other yet-to-be-answered question is which position he'll actually play. The Vikings use a 4-3 alignment, so the middle linebacker spot isn't exactly the same as playing on the inside in the 3-4 scheme. Chad Greenway is the starter at the strong side, and Erin Henderson was the starter at the weak side spot the last two years. Henderson could stay there, with Bishop taking the middle, or they could flip-flop.
"I'm not really worried about that. Wherever they put me. Whatever the coaching staff sees me fit, that's where I'll play," Bishop said, adding: "I've pretty much played all three positions at one time in my football career."
To make room for Bishop on the 90-man roster they'll take to training camp, the Vikings released linebacker Stanford Keglar.
The Vikings also publicized Thursday their practice schedule for camp, which the Vikings report to on July 25. They'll have 15 days of open-to-the-public workouts at Minnesota State University in Mankato, with a walk-through in the morning and a full practice in the afternoon. The last day of on-field work there is Aug. 14.