Are you ready for some ... um, boxing?
Ray Edwards is, even though the NFL free-agent defensive end admits the butterflies will be fluttering when he makes his ring debut Friday night at Grand Casino Hinckley.
"I've played football since I was 10, and I still get butterflies until that first hit," said Edwards, who has spent his first five NFL seasons with the Vikings. "So I'm sure I'll have them when I step into that ring. It's not fear or anything. I'm not going to make any guarantees. But I will get the job done."
The 6-5, 255-pound Edwards, 26, will have a decided size advantage in Friday night's four-round bout. His opponent, 34-year-old T.J. Gibson of Duluth, said he's 5-9 and "about 210 to 215" pounds.
Gibson said he's 22-3 as a kickboxer, including 4-1 as a professional, but is also making his traditional boxing debut. Various kickboxing websites have listed Gibson as having competed at weights as low as 186 pounds.
"No man intimidates me," said Gibson, a Vikings fan. "I'll be ready. Let's hope [Edwards] is ready. If he knocks me out, he must be good because I've never been knocked out in kickboxing. If I knock him out, I hope you guys have your cameras ready."
Edwards said he's getting a $5,000 guarantee and 50 percent of the gate proceeds. Tickets are available for between $30 and $600. The fight card begins at 7:30 p.m. and also includes undefeated Cerresso Fort (10-0) vs. Hinckley's Tim Taggert Jr.
Edwards was introduced to boxing as a form of conditioning 4 1/2 years ago when he met Jeff Warner, a former professional heavyweight boxer and a pastor in Burnsville, at Vikings chapel. Edwards began training more seriously for a ring debut two years ago when the NFL began moving toward the current lockout.
Edwards' NFL future is uncertain. His free-agency status depends on the rules that will be in place in 2011. He said he'll sign elsewhere if he's granted unrestricted free agency. If he's a restricted free agent, he said he will not play for the Vikings' one-year, $2.8 million tender offer.
Edwards said he would insist the Vikings pay him more than the three-year, $14.1 million they paid his backup, Brian Robison. The Vikings also could work out a sign-and-trade deal with another team or gamble that Edwards will change his mind rather than leave $2.8 million on the table while boxing for small purses.
Edwards signed a two-fight deal earlier this month. The second fight is tentatively scheduled for June at Grand Casino Hinckley. The NFL lockout will last until at least June 3, when the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis holds a hearing on U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson's decision to lift the lockout.
"Right now," Edwards said, "I'm a boxer."