Frustrated, not angry, Hodges biding his time

Gerald Hodges went through a similar process in college, waiting and learning his first year behind two more experienced players that have gone on to become accomplished NFL starters. Hodges hasn't gotten a chance on defense with the Vikings yet, but he should at least be active more often after the season-ending knee injury to Desmond Bishop. Hodges talked about his season to date.

The Vikings' three first-round draft picks haven't gotten as much playing time as some would like or expect for their draft status, but they are getting opportunities. So is fifth-round punter Jeff Locke.

But stuck in between the first-rounders and fifth-rounder is only one player – linebacker Gerald Hodges – because of the picks traded away to move up and make Cordarrelle Patterson the last of the three first-round picks. Unlike the other four picks in the top five rounds, Hodges hasn't played a down in the main capacity he was drafted: defense.

The Vikings entered the season with Marvin Mitchell as their starting weakside linebacker with the anticipation that Desmond Bishop, acquired after minicamp and before training camp, would eventually be healthy enough and familiar enough with the defense to take over as the starter. He did – for one game – before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and ending his second straight season prematurely because of injury.

Mitchell will return to the starting role, but Hodges could eventually be the beneficiary of opportunity from Bishop's misfortune. He has been active for only one game, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then was inactive again last weekend against the Carolina Panthers.

"It was disappointing, but the coaches have a strategy and they have a plan on what they want to do and how they want to do things. I'm not mad or anything like that," Hodges said. "Of course, as a football player, you would get frustrated, but I'm definitely not mad or anything of that nature. I'm getting an opportunity to be active again, God-allowing me, for the rest of the season and, God-allowing me, to get some snaps on the defensive side of the ball. Just waiting for my turn and waiting for my chance for my number to be called."

Through five games, Hodges' number hasn't been called much. He has played in less than 5 percent of the total special teams snaps and hasn't seen the field on defense yet. He expects he will be active now that Bishop's season is over and he's hoping his patience pays off for the long term.

"It's a blessing in disguise. God, he's always on time with everything," Hodges said. "I've been not stressing, but just wanting to play football. It's just like, alright, just when you feel like you can't take it no more sitting around watching all the time, he appears like that and gives me a chance to suit up and get a feel for things."

Hodges knows the drill. He went through a similar process at Penn State his freshman season.

At that time, there was good reason for him being relegated to backup duty. He started his college career as a safety and then moved behind highly rated linebackers like Sean Lee and NaVorro Bowman.

That was his final year on the bench. When they left for the NFL, Hodges became a starter. He went on to become only the fifth player in Penn State history to lead the team in tackles in back-to-back seasons with 100 or more in each of those. He finished his career with 249 tackles, including 215 in his final two seasons.

He said the defenses between the Nittany Lions and Vikings are "very, very, very similar," so he isn't be asked to do anything too new. However, he did find the approach in the NFL different.

"Just the professionalism from everyone. A lot of guys here, you see things and your main focus is just playing football," Hodges said. "In reality, you've got to be a professional when you're playing at the professional level. You've got to be a professional in everything you do – the way you carry yourself, the way you play football, the way you work, everything."

So far, he has had to remain professional while biding his time at weakside linebacker behind two veterans.

"Gerald has come along. He's a guy who, as we continue, we're hoping to get him on the field," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "He got in a couple games, maybe one game now, Pittsburgh, on special teams and he did a good job when he got in. He'll keep coming as an outside linebacker."

Hodges said he isn't sure if he will start to get some defensive snaps here and there behind Mitchell, but if that opportunity arises, he said he won't try to be "super human."

"It's a decision that comes from the coaches upstairs. It's my job to take care of business and what I can do," he said. "I let those guys make their decision. Whatever I can handle and whatever is in my hands, that's what I take care of."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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