At the end of the 2010 season, the Vikings had a decision to make about offering a contract extension to defensive end Ray Edwards. The Vikings stepped forward with a big contract offer, but it was to Edwards' backup Brian Robison. The team had faith that Robison could become a dominant player and he has repaid that faith with his play on the field.
Until last Sunday, Robison had started all 30 games he had played since being anointed the starting left defensive end. That streak came to an end after he suffered a Grade 3 shoulder sprain that knocked him out of the St. Louis game and made him inactive for the Houston game. Since then, Robison has been working with the trainers and medical staff to get himself ready.
Although he didn't practice last week, he thought he was ready to go on Sunday. But the coaching staff opted to make him inactive for Sunday's game at Houston after a pre-game run-through in which it was clear that he was still experiencing pain.
"I tried it out," Robison said. "I thought I could play, but ultimately they made the decision that I was a no-go. All I can do now is go out and show them day after day what I'm doing in treatment, what's happening and hopefully they'll make the decision to play me."
It was a difficult decision for Robison to accept. He had family and friends at the game from his home state of Texas, where he grew up and played his high school and college ball. That, combined with how much was at stake, made it a hard pill to swallow when he was told he wouldn't be playing.
"It was very tough, especially going back home," Robison said. "Being back in front of family, you want to play. To have to sit out this late in the season, it kind of hurt."
That was the bad news for Robison. The good news is that he is seeing progress every day as the pain gets lessened with each treatment and the normalcy of his injured shoulder starts to return.
"I feel like I've got good range of motion," Robison said. "It's just about getting the strength back in it."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the team would wait until later in the week to see how Robison handles multiple days of practice.
Robison was one of the players who bristled at the notion of playing a defensive line rotation when defensive coordinator Alan Williams floated the idea at training camp that he was hoping to keep the team fresh. At the time, Robison was vocal about getting a feel for the game and playing better as the game wore on. But, at less than 100 percent and Everson Griffen playing well when replacing him, Robison has been forced to change his pregame mindset that, even if he returns to the field Sunday, he won't be out there as often as he typically is – making his preparation as much about the condition his head is in as the condition his ailing shoulder is in.
"I'm going to prepare mentally," Robison said. "If I'm not out their physically, I'm going to prepare mentally to where I feel comfortable in whatever role I have. I don't have to practice in order to play, but it always helps to be out their physically and going through the game-planning process."
Given what is at stake – if the Vikings win, not only do they make the playoffs, but that almost most likely sets up a rematch with the Packers at Green Bay the following week – Robison is pushing himself to get back into the lineup and help the team accomplish the goal they set for themselves back in July when few others outside the Vikings locker room thought it was even a remote possibility.
"It's the biggest game we have this year," Robison said. "Not only because it's the next game, but because it has playoff implications. I definitely want to be on the field for that and show them that I'm ready for it this week."
The million-dollar question remains, "Will B-Rob play Sunday?" When asked about it, he threw back a rhetorical, "Have you heard something?" response. He wasn't being a wise guy about it. The bottom line is that he doesn't know himself. All he can do is try to prove himself fit enough to play at the level expected of him and wait for the green light to get going. Until then, he's waiting just like Vikings fans because he knows the final decision isn't in his own hands – it's in the hands of the training staff and medical personnel.
"I don't know," Robison said. "We'll see what happens. All I can do is go out and try to show them every day that I'm getting better and they'll make the decision from there. I believe I'm doing much better. I've been working hard in the rehab room. I'm just trying to get it back and wait for what their decision is. Ultimately, it's up to them what they want me to do."
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.
Robison back at practice, hoping to play
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