Robison pondering new role as line leader

With the exodus of Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Letroy Guion, Brian Robison is not only the sole returning starter, he is elder statesman of the defensive line. He said he has thought about his new role in that regard often in the past few months.

Brian Robison is beginning to experience a transition in his NFL career.

After cutting his teeth in the NFL with Ray Edwards in front of him on the depth chart and Jared Allen joining the team in Robison's second season, there wasn't much pressure on Robison to take a lead role. Pat Williams was the sheriff of the defensive line during his time with the Vikings and Kevin Williams was the soft-spoken deputy. Allen joined in for comic relief off the field and serious sacks on the field.

Slowly – to Robison, it was probably too slowly – but surely, Robison's role increased. But with massive changes on the defensive line this year, Robison is suddenly one of the elder statesmen of the group.

"I've actually thought about this a lot over the offseason and I think I've always been a guy that tries to lead by example and do that kind of deal," Robison said. "But I do need to be more of a vocal leader on our defense, especially now that me and Fred (Evans) are kind of the old guys in the room, as you say. We definitely do. We need to step up and take that role."

Robison will turn 31 on April 27. Fred Evans will turn 31 during the season.

After that, however, the remaining defensive line is largely a collection of players 26 and younger. Everson Griffen, who is expected to start at right defensive end (Allen's old spot), is 26. Sharrif Floyd, who is expected to take over for Kevin Williams, will turn 23 next month. Linval Joseph, replacing Letroy Guion at nose tackle, will turn 26 during the season; and Corey Wootton, expected to challenge for a rotational role at end and tackle, will turn 27 in June.

Tom Johnson is essentially the outlier – a player signed in free agency that is older than 26. He will turn 30 in August but has only three years of NFL experience.

Robison is the only returning starter with long ties to the Vikings.

"We need to let these guys know that if we're going to win a championship, we have to have a different mindset than we've had before," he said. "I definitely feel like it's time for me to step up and take more of leadership role than I have on this team in years past."

Robison said he has talked to head coach Mike Zimmer and defensive line coach Andre Patterson on the phone, but wants to get to know them more face-to-face in coming weeks before going into too much detail about how he wants to approach the season. The Vikings start their offseason conditioning program on Monday and Robison will be there for the start of it.

The names on the defensive line aren't as recognizable to Vikings fans as they once were when it was the Williams Walls flanked by Robison and Allen, but times change and Robison believes success can lie ahead for the defensive line with new personnel and a new approach with the defense. Patterson will be part of that new approach.

"He doesn't want us to be robots. I think that's the biggest thing I took away from him," Robison said. "He wants us to go make plays. He wants us to affect quarterbacks and really kind of get back to that old-school mentality. We know that he coached John Randle and he coached Chris Doleman and he coached those guys that were known for creating havoc. I think that's what he wants for us. He wants us to be known for creating havoc on opponents' offenses."

Robison can relate to that part. Becoming the new leader of the line might be a work in progress.

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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