From roster bubble to starting candidate?

A year away from the game gave LB Desmond Bishop a new appreciation for his health. The last couple weeks of strong play have given him a new opportunity at a starting position.

Two weeks ago, there was a growing rumble that linebacker Desmond Bishop might not make the final Vikings roster. He had been laid low by a severe hamstring injury in 2012 that required surgery and had gone more than a year without stepping on the field for a game.

Two weeks later, after a nine-tackle performance against San Francisco and seven tackles in Thursday's 24-23 win over Tennessee at the Metrodome, the talk now is not only that he has made the roster, but that he is pushing to be the starting outside linebacker when the Vikings open the regular season at Detroit a week from Sunday.

Bishop is a player who believes that practices are vital to the success of a player, but it's what you do when the lights are bright and the game is on that is more indicative of his style and his ability.

"I'm an instinctive guy, that's kind of my strength," Bishop said. "Practice is just preparation for the game. It's about doing it in the game."

Seeing his outlook change in the span of five days isn't anything new for Bishop. A starting inside linebacker in the Packers' 3-4 defense prior to his injury, he was expecting to be competing for that job in Green Bay this preseason, before he was unceremoniously dumped by the Packers after the draft. Going from a player who couldn't be on the field to someone who may have a leg up on the starting job, the Green Bay experience has changed his outlook toward the game.

"Talking about how quickly things can change, I know all about that," Bishop said. "That's why I really don't put too much emphasis on one thing or another because I know how quick things can change. I'm really just grateful to be back healthy and playing again."

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has been impressed with what he has seen during the last two games, which was a far cry from training camp, when the best that reporters could get from the head coach when asked about Bishop was a shrug and the acknowledgement that he couldn't make a decision on him until he got on the field. After two strong games, they have something meaningful to look at.

"I thought Desmond did a good job," Frazier said. "He was flying around. It was good to see him get out there. He's struggled with injuries over the last year or so, so to see him come out and compete the way he did and put some good tape out there the last two weeks. He's really come on, so that's really encouraging. We're looking forward to watching the tape and evaluating him more."

There will be concerns about whether Bishop will be able to stay healthy, but he has learned a respect for the game that he might not have had prior to the injury and, after being robbed of a year of his NFL life, he's happy to have it finally over with and getting back to doing what he loves to do.

"Besides the scar, I don't have any residual anything," Bishop said. "It was very difficult going through the treatment and rehabbing and not knowing, having that doubt of not knowing if it's going to hold up if you get into a jam. I missed the season and all of the offseason. It was tough, but I'm just grateful to be in the position to be healthy enough to play. I don't take it for granted anymore — I don't take the game for granted, I don't take plays for granted. I just enjoy it."

GAME NOTES

  • Guard Seth Olsen was injured with three minutes to play in the first half when he took a knee to the side of his helmet and it was obvious immediately that there was something very wrong.

    Not only did head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and his staff come out on the field, but the EMTs came rushing out on the field with the vehicle to take him off the field. Olsen was surrounded by 10 people and placed onto a backboard after laying motionless for several minutes on the Metrodome turf.

    Fortunately, Olsen was in the locker room walking around and chatting up teammates following the game. He was diagnosed with a concussion and no other serious injury.

    In an ironic twist, the Vikings' medical staff had just gone through a training procedure with the Hennepin County Medical Center earlier this week at Winter Park to deal with just this kind of incident and it came into play a day later.

  • Cornerback Bobby Felder suffered a right ankle injury on the final play of third quarter. Felder had to be taken off the field on a cart after being helped to sideline because he couldn't put weight on the injured ankle.

  • Tennessee outgained the Vikings 417-342, running 72 offensive plays to 59 for the Vikings.

  • Thanks to Marcus Sherels' 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Blair Walsh blasting every kickoff too deep to be returned, the Vikings outgained the Titans in return yardage 141-9.

  • Despite not having most of the starters on the field for much or all of the game, there were only six called penalties — three for each team.

  • McLeod Bethel-Thompson had an efficient game, completing 19 of 26 passes for 187 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 89.7.

  • Joe Banyard was the running star of the game, carrying 13 times for 62 yards and catching seven passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.

  • Eighteen different players caught passes in the game — 10 for the Vikings and eight for the Titans.

  • Offensive tackle DeMarcus Love had a rare reception in the fourth quarter. After a pass intended for Joe Webb was tipped, Love made the catch on the deflection and gained 10 yards and a first down.

  • Late in the third quarter, the fans started a wave that, at first, seemed reminiscent of the 21-minute wave that took over a preseason game against Buffalo last year. Fans tore up their complimentary programs and made confetti out of them. However, this wave died out 11 minutes in.

  • There wasn't a punt in the game until less than two minutes remained in the third quarter. Each team ended up punting just once.

  • Tight end Chase Ford was going in for a touchdown that would have given the Vikings a 28-17 lead midway through the third quarter, but he was hit on the 1-yard line and fumbled. Tennessee recovered the fumble, returned it 40 yards and led to another double-digit drive —this one of 10 plays — to cut the Vikings lead to 21-20.

  • In the first two possessions for each team, the Vikings and Titans combined to run 54 plays. Tennessee had drives of 18 and 12 plays, while the Vikings had drives of 11 and 13 plays — all of them leading to points. The Titans' third possession went 10 plays, leaving the Vikings with just 26 seconds before halftime.

  • With Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart both inactive, it was all Matt Asiata all the time on the Vikings' first drive. Not only did Asiata have eight carries on the opening drive, he caught a pass and fittingly capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.

  • Fans couldn't have asked for much more from the first quarter of a meaningless game. Both teams had the ball just once, Tennessee running 18 plays on the opening drive that ate up the first 8:59 of the game and the Vikings running an 11-play drive on their initial possession —a drive that ended on the first play of the second quarter.

  • Former Vikings running back Ricky Young sounded the Gjallarhorn to bring the Vikings out on the field prior to the start of the game.

  • The announced crowd was 62,603, but actually attendance at the game was about half that total.


    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.

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