For years, Brian Robison was the youngest member of the Vikings defensive front. When he first became a starter in 2010, he was lined up next to Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Jared Allen – all defensive linemen with Pro Bowls on their résumés and defensive leaders on the team.
With the exodus of Kevin and Jared following the 2013 season, Robison is the vested veteran of the defensive line group. He lobbied publicly late in the season for the Vikings to consider keeping both Williams and Allen, but the business decision to move on left him alone from the group he built his own career around.
He didn’t know what to expect with two D-line leaders – one outspoken and one soft-spoken – gone, but he has been pleasantly surprised with how smoothly his transition has gone in becoming the senior member of the Vikings defensive front.
“It hasn’t been hard,” Robison said. “When I got here and we already had those guys, I felt like I had to prove myself to them and worked my tail off. Nothing has changed even though those guys are all gone. I’ve taken the same approach I always have – work as hard as I can and try to be a better player than I was the year before. I try to help the younger guys come along when I see something they can do to improve their game and they’ve done a great job of coming to me and feeling like I’m a guy who can help them. Any time I can do something to help make our team better, I’m all in for that.”
Another transition for Robison has been adapting to the new scheme that defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer has installed with the Vikings. While it is a vast departure from what the Vikings operated from in the past, Robison’s job hasn’t changed all that much because the primary schematic differences are taking place behind him in the defense.
“If you look at the way we run our defense, a lot of what we’re doing on the line is the same,” Robison said. “We have a lot of six-technique and five-technique. For us, the difference is the way we play things. It’s a little bit different on runs – whether it be a crack toss, a power or a lead – we’re playing it in a new way than we have before here. I think that’s just going to help us. If we can stop the run better and make offenses one-dimensional having to pass, with his aggressiveness on defense, I think the sky’s the limit for us.”
When some players get a big contract and penned into the starting lineup, they can get a little complacent about things like training camp. Robison isn’t one of those guys. From his first training camp when he was a fourth-round draft pick out of Texas, he has always felt like he has something to prove. Even after being rewarded with a big contract and being all but assured of being a starter, he hasn’t changed his playing mentality.
As he views it, if you start feeling too good about your spot, that’s when you get burned and learn that the NFL stands for Not For Long.
“I’ve been a guy who has played with a chip on his shoulder every year in this league,” Robison said. “For me, no matter how solidified of a spot you have or how comfortable you get, as soon as you start getting comfortable, you get lackadaisical and you feel like you’ve got it made. That’s when you start exiting this league. I think every year you should come out and compete for your position and if you come out and do that on a daily basis, you have no choice but to get better.”
Robison is excited about the prospect that the Vikings have heading into the 2014 season, but one aspect he will have to adjust to is Zimmer’s penchant for running his defensive linemen in waves with the idea being that the players will be fresh at the end.
The biggest problem Robison will face is that he prides himself in being an every-down player and, while he understands the concept behind the wave, it will be something he will have to adjust to – even more than having a new coach and new line mates.
“To be honest, I like being out there every play,” Robison said. “I like getting a good rhythm for the guy I’m going against, but that’s just how I play. Ultimately, that’s the coach’s decision and I completely understand what they’re thinking – keeping guys fresh in the fourth quarter to win ballgames. I’m going to do what the coaches tell me to do, but the bottom line is that I want to be out there every single play. That’s the competitor in me.”
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Robison adjusting to plenty of newness
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