Robison has been on the other side of things. As a fourth-round draft pick in 2007, nothing was guaranteed and he had to earn his spot. In his first full season as a starter, he recorded eight sacks and knows that the next line of defense behind him needs to be ready to go. As he learned working his way up through the ranks, successful teams must have healthy starters, but also need to groom talent among those on the second and third line of the depth chart.
"Any time you're talking a defensive unit, you're only as good as your twos and threes," Robison said. "Jared and I have to set the pace and have those young guys fall in behind us and see what they need to do when they hit the field. For us, it's just setting an example, putting it on tape and making sure that we bring them along with us."
Allen relishes the opportunity to help the younger players. When he played in Kansas City (as another fourth-round draft pick), he had veterans that served as his mentors and he is more than willing to pass along the knowledge he has picked up over the years and pay it forward.
"I'm all for it," Allen said. "If guys are eager to learn, I'm all for teaching them. That's how this game stays great – the (current) generation teaching the younger generation."
In 2009 and 2010, the Vikings had one of the oldest teams in the league – a veteran-laden bunch that was kept primarily intact for a long run. But, with the franchise undergoing a youth movement so pronounced that they might be the youngest team in the league when the season starts, Robison believes change is good and, whether you like it or not, inevitable in the NFL.
"That's part of the business," Robison said. "Every year you come in and you're going to have new faces and guys you're used to seeing are gone. It's almost a shuffleboard game."
In his first four seasons, Robison started just seven games and only two in seasons two through four. Yet, when it came time to give out a long-term deal, the Vikings went to him instead of Ray Edwards to make sure they locked him down before he got to free agency. He credits his mantra of never getting complacent and always having the seed planted in the back of his mind that he could lose his job at any time if the team sees something they like in another player. That competitive fire (and some might contend paranoia) has helped him become a fiery competitor who never backs down from a challenge and plays every down – regular season, preseason, training camps or OTAs – like his job depends on it.
"I come into every camp competing for a position," Robison said. "I don't ever feel like my position is (guaranteed). I feel it's one of those things that can change from day to day. I come with an attitude and a chip on my shoulder that I can be the best player I can be. Every offseason I come in with that attitude. Every camp I come in with that attitude. I'm our here trying make plays and help the young guys come along. It's not always what you do on the field, it's the legacy that you leave."
It seems clear the coaching staff believes the Vikings need to work harder in the 2012 training camp than they have in previous years. With so many young players scratching for roster spots, the Vikings have played five straight days will full-pad practices, something Allen hasn't seen in a long time.
"We've been going live," Allen said. "Other than coach (Dick) Vermeil (in Kansas City), this is the second-toughest camp I've been a part of. Five straight days of pads and live periods each day. That was a bit surprising, especially seeing as we're going to be here for three weeks."
How the Vikings roster is comprised will be determined in large part to what happens under the hot August sun of Mankato and the team's preseason schedule. Change was needed and change has come and Robison believes that, in the long run, the lessons learned in August will pay off in November and December as the Vikings try to climb back into playoff contention.
"These are the dog days of camp," Robison said. "We're just trying to push through. We've got this first week down and we're trying to push through. After the season we had last year, it's obvious that work needs to be done. Everyone has to step up, from the rookies to old vets. That's what we'll need to turn this thing around."
FRIDAY PRACTICE NOTES
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.