Robison’s leadership a must for him, Vikings

Brian Robison has the proverbial NFL chip on the shoulder that keeps him hungry.

For years it seemed like Brian Robison was one of the young guns of the Minnesota Vikings defense. A fourth-round pick in one of the greatest draft classes in Vikings history – the Class of 2007 that included Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice – Robison arrived to the Vikings at a time when they had veteran leaders on the defensive line.

Pat Williams was an emotional, vocal leader. Kevin Williams was a quiet leader who let his play do the talking. When Jared Allen arrived, the knob got turned up to 11. It always seemed like Robison was the fourth guy – the Ringo of the defensive line.

But the attrition of the line over the last few years has overhauled the defensive front. Big Pat was the first to go. Kevin and Jared both left after the 2013 season and Robison was transformed into the front-and-center veteran leader of the defensive line room.

At training camp this season, several young players have talked about the veteran leaders on the team. Invariably, Robison’s name gets mentioned high on the list, something he is flattered by and motivated by.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” Robison said. “I always try to do the right thing in games, in practice, in the weight room, wherever. You can never appoint yourself a leader on the team. The guys have to appoint you and look at you in that type of light. For them to be able to see me as a leader on this team means a whole lot to me. It makes we want to get better every single day because, if I can lead by example and make sure I’m doing the right things all the time, it gives them something to look at and try to do the same.”

One of his leadership qualities has been his ability to play through pain. In his eight-year career, he has missed just two games and only one game in his four years as a full-time starter. This offseason, he has been facing one of the most difficult battles of his career – coming back from a significant pectoral injury.

The injury took place when Robison was lifting during the OTA period and he sustained a torn pectoral muscle. He has spent the last couple of months rehabbing it, but it has been breaking new ground due to its severity.

“I’ve had injuries like that before, but never one this serious,” Robison said. “Right now, it’s feeling good. They’re taking it pretty cautious – one day at a time, one play at a time really. We’re just seeing how it progresses, but so far everything seems to be progressing pretty well.”

The bigger issue for the Vikings organization has been trying to keep Robison on a leash and not letting him run free. Athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and his staff have the unenviable task of trying to dial back highly motivated injured players and, by his own admission, Robison isn’t the ideal student for their line of work.

He has always been a Texas tornado and keeping him under wraps has never been easy. Being forced to curtail his standard routine isn’t something that has come easy for Robison because, as much as he loves playing football, he hates watching it from the sideline.

“It’s definitely more of a challenge to keep me held down because if I’m feeling good, I’m always looking to push myself to get back on the field,” Robison said. “That’s how I’ve always done things. I’m the type of guy that, if I feel I can put the pads on, I want to be out there every play. I think a big key for them is to do their best to hold me back so I don’t overdo it and have a setback.”

It is clear that Robison is viewed as a key component of the Vikings’ defensive line. As the grand old man of the defensive front, he is respected for his leadership, but he doesn’t take his role in the defense for granted.

He’s been around nine years now in Minnesota, but one thing that hasn’t changed since the days that he came in with a chip on his shoulder – he thought he should have been drafted higher – is his insistence of making himself believe that he is on the bubble to make the roster.

That hasn’t been the case for several years, but it has helped forge leadership qualities in Robison that were true as a 2007 rookie and remain true as a grizzled 2015 veteran.

“I’ve gone into every camp since my rookie year with the mindset I have to challenge myself to get better each and every day of camp and that I have to make sure that I fight for a starting position,” Robison said. “The reason I have that mindset I’m a firm believer that as soon as you become complacent in the league is when that door starts opening and you start getting kicked out of it. I compete for a starting position every day like somebody is on my heels looking to take it away from me. If I can do that every day and keep putting my best foot forward, I think that makes me a better player.”

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