The Vikings will wrap up their second week of Organized Team Activities on Thursday. And we can say this about the two sessions the media has been allowed to observe so far: They’ve been spirited and well-attended. Vikings players continue to gush about the energy levels and the universal buy-in with all 90 players in attendance this week. Following Wednesday’s workout, here’s a trio of things you should know:
1 Defensive end Brian Robison looks spry and re-energized.
Robison supplied two of the most eye-catching highlights Wednesday, intercepting Christian Ponder twice. One came off a deflection. The other occurred near the goal line with Robison relenting on his pass rush and timing his leap perfectly with Ponder’s release. That latter pick resulted in a touchdown, a celebratory spike and a quip from a reporter wondering if Robison was making a push at the defense’s open slot cornerback job.
“I definitely might be that guy,” Robison said.
It’s only OTAs. But it has to be encouraging to Vikings coaches to see Robison back at full strength. Last season, he was slowed throughout the year by an injury to his left elbow that required him to wear a bulky brace. Robinson then suffered a severe right shoulder sprain in Week 15 that essentially rendered that arm powerless.
“The most difficult thing was feeling like I didn’t have any arms to play with,” Robison said. “It was like going in there trying to basically put my hands behind my back and play everything with my shoulders.”
When the Vikings played at Green Bay in their playoff opener, Robison looked like a medieval knight with the protective braces he had to wear. Now, he has shed all the extra protection and seems eager to head into the final season of his contract at full strength.
“I feel good, man,” he said. “I really do.”
2 Tight end Kyle Rudolph has everyone’s attention.
It’s tough to know just how much to make of Rudolph’s Pro Bowl MVP performance from four months back. In a game in which defensive effort is an afterthought, Rudolph’s five-catch, 122-yard, one-TD effort must be viewed in the proper context. But the MVP honors and the overall experience seems to have rocketed the tight end’s confidence to another level.
Said coach Leslie Frazier: “The Kyle Rudolph I see now is so much more confident and so much more sure of himself than the Kyle I saw a year ago at this time. It’s like night and day for me. That Pro Bowl? It has flipped a switch.”
Rudolph said Wednesday he used his time in Hawaii to work closely with Dallas standout Jason Witten, an elite pass catcher who also takes pride in his blocking. Rounding out that part of his skill set will be key for Rudolph. But Frazier’s excitement is obvious with his gushing praise Wednesday for Rudolph’s detailed route running, focused practice efforts and control in meetings.
“It’s obvious he has taken his game up another notch,” Frazier said. “But we’re only in June, so I have to temper my emotions a little bit.”
3 Christian Ponder has a new brain to pick in the quarterbacks room this week.
Yep, Jeff George is back in town. The Vikings’ starter for 10 games in 1999 has been an observer and “guest coach” at OTAs this week. According to Frazier, George is in a feeling-out process to determine whether coaching might be in his future.
His connections to the Vikings? He passed for 2,816 yards and 23 TDs during that ’99 season and aided a playoff victory over Dallas. Two years prior, George was the full-time starter in Oakland, where his quarterbacks coach was current Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Ponder called George “another guy you can bounce something off” but said the two hadn’t talked much this week.
To be clear, George never was the model quarterback in terms of consistency or attitude, with a long-standing reputation as a selfish teammate. He does, however, have a unique perspective after making 112 career starts with five teams while passing for 27,602 yards and 154 TDs with 113 interceptions. So the Vikings have welcomed him in this week with open arms.
Said Frazier: “He and I have talked about what he’s seen from our guys, and it’s been very favorable.”