Hodges finds versatility is valuable

Gerald Hodges might be the Minnesota Vikings’ most versatile linebacker and it is showing.

Last year, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Gerald Hodges began the season as a backup to Chad Greenway. He was forced to fill in for him as the weakside linebacker a couple times during the season, and was also forced to fill in for Anthony Barr as the strongside linebacker at the end of the season.

Now during the 2015 preseason, he is learning another new role, middle linebacker. He said this is the first time he has ever had to play middle linebacker in his career, but because of his experience playing the other positions a year ago the transition has been pretty seamless.

“It all combines together. Learn the Sam, learn the Will – you know both of those positions – and then you kind of get a feel of what the Mike is supposed to do. When you start to study how the Mike works, now you get the big picture of the whole entire defense. The front four, the guys behind you and the linebackers.”

That all ties into the concept of learning to play the game of football versus learning just your position that head coach Mike Zimmer likes to preach. Hodges has been taking that type of philosophy to heart because he feels when he learns what all the positions are doing at any given time he then better understands what he is supposed to be doing.

Since Hodges has shown that he has the ability to play multiple positions so well, the coaching staff seems to trust him more out on the field. But with that trust also comes increased expectations for the young player compared to the ones set on him a year ago.

“They want you to be valuable,” he said. “They want you to know the Mike, the Sam and the Will, and they want you to be able to play either one. They want to be able to throw you in there and know you can play either the Mike, the Will or the Sam at either position. That’s a good quality to have when it comes to these coaches because, like I said, it’s value and when someone goes down you’re able to go in there. Especially if you know the defense.”

The role that Hodges will have going into the 2015 season is still unclear. His name has now been thrown in with Audie Cole and Eric Kendricks for the starting middle linebacker spot, and if he performs well in the remaining preseason games it is possible that he ends up there. Or he could once again be the primary backup to both Greenway and Barr.

No matter what happens to him, though, it is clear the coaches want him to continue to do one thing, and that is to be that player that keeps the team upbeat and positive. In the locker room and on the field Hodges is always the player being lauded and cracking jokes, and the coaching staff wants that to continue.

“They want me to just go out there and continue to be a leader,” he said. “They like my leadership. They want me to go out there and basically go out there and continue making plays and continue to have the guys rally around each other. And just keep being positive around the squad and keeping the squad positive.”

The Vikings will be playing their third preseason game of the preseason this Saturday and Hodges wants to make sure he plays well in it, but more importantly he wants to make sure that everyone on the team comes out in one piece.

“No mental errors. There’s no such thing as a perfect game, but I want to play as close to perfect for my self goals,” he said. “And as a team I just want to go out there and win. I want to come out of this thing as a whole team – everyone come out of this thing healthy and heading into Week 1 with everyone healthy.”

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