The first game of the NFL regular season is fast approaching and the Vikings will be starting out their 2015 campaign on the big stage. They start out by going to the West Coast to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football.
After a five-game-long preseason, the players are ready to get back on the field for some meaningful games. Emotions and excitement always runs high at the start of the regular season and the fact that this game is on prime-time television means everything is amped up even more.
A lot of the young players on the team who have never played on Monday night seem pretty confident that they will handle the spotlight, thinking it’s just another game. But Brian Robison knows that is not how it is.
“I hope they can be that confident on Monday night,” he said. “Obviously, anybody’s that played in this league, you understand that you play some preseason games and that’s all fine and dandy, but when you get out there in the regular season the speed picks up a little bit. Things happen a little bit faster, your adrenaline’s pumping a little bit more and even for a nine-year vet it still happens. So hopefully they’ll be prepared for that and I think we’ve done a good job of making sure our team is prepared.
“For us, obviously, there’s going to be a little bit more adrenaline going on and things like that, especially with it being a Monday night game. That adds a little bit more pressure but it’s all about handling it the right way, and the right way to handle it is go out there and make sure that you beat the man in front of you.”
The veteran defensive end said that the best way to think about it is to just view it as any other game, although that is easier said than done. Every football-crazed kid grows up dreaming about playing in the NFL and now that dream is going to become a reality for the Vikings’ rookies.
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All that excitement can sometimes lead to mistakes or players trying to do too much on plays and making mental mistakes. That’s why veteran players know it’s important for them to help manage the young guys when they are out on the field.
“You’re only going to be as good as your weakest player and we don’t want to have any weak players on this ball club,” Robison said. “So for us as veterans, we have to make sure we bring those guys along so there’s no dropoff when they come in the game.”
Safety Harrison Smith is another player who doesn’t really believe the rookies when they say they aren’t nervous because he still gets nervous before every game, even the preseason games. That’s just how he wants it. When he starts to feel the butterflies, he knows it is game time.
Like Robison, Smith knows it is going to be important to help out the younger players and he said the best way to do that is to communicate with them when they are all out on the field.
“At the end of the day, you can’t play for anybody else; everybody’s got to get themselves ready, but you can communicate well,” Smith said. “Especially a guy who plays corner – I’m a safety – try to be on the same page with them. Maybe over-communicate so he knows, ‘OK, Harrison may be able to help me on this,’ or ‘I know what I have now because he told me what he’s doing.’ Just little things that can keep them from thinking and just going out and being an athlete and playing to make plays.”
Monday Night Football games are always a unique experience for players because it is prime-time television and the whole nation is watching them. The Vikings simply need to be able to control their emotions and show everybody what they can do.
“I think the way we finished last year definitely showed that we have the ability to win some ballgames,” Robison said. “And then the hard work that we’ve put in throughout OTAs, the preseason, this is going to be a culmination of it all. Hopefully we’re able to go out Monday night in front of the whole world watching and be able to show what the Minnesota Vikings of 2015 are going to be all about.”