Tom Dahlin/Viking Update

Brian Robison believes Danielle Hunter has ‘earned the right’ to fight for starting spot

Brian Robison admitted Monday that, when the 2017 season begins, he and Danielle Hunter may be exchanging roles in the Vikings defense.

Near the end of the wildly disappointing 2010 season, the Minnesota Vikings were posed with the question of whether or not to pay pending free agent Ray Edwards a lucrative free-agent contract. The Vikings front office made a decision, but it wasn’t the one Edwards was expecting.

The team announced in December 2010 that it had signed backup defensive end Brian Robison to a contract extension, effectively letting it be known that Edwards would be allowed to hit the free-agent market – a decision the Atlanta Falcons came to regret.

The thinking at the time was that Robison was ready to be a full-time player and they haven’t regretted that decision. In the six years that he has been the starting defensive end, Robison has missed just one game due to injury. But, as a player with 10 years in the league and going to turn 33 on the same day as the first night of the 2017 draft (April 27), Robison can see the handwriting on the wall that Danielle Hunter is the future of the position and the future is likely coming soon.

“These young cats around here make me feel old anyways, especially when you look at a guy like Danielle Hunter, who is 12 years younger than you or 11 years younger than you,” Robison said. “He’s probably done enough to earn a starting position next year. I’m very proud of him. He’s done a lot of great work. When you look around and see that you really are becoming the old guy it’s a little bit different.”

Robison isn’t overly concerned about his playing-time numbers. As he views it, if the Vikings are winning and playing better defensively with him taking on a flexible role similar to what Chad Greenway has done the last couple of years, he’s fine with that.

On many of the downs that Hunter would come in, it didn’t necessarily mean that Robison left the field. He often moved inside to a tackle position in Mike Zimmer’s defense. If his role with Hunter flip-flops, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, because snap counts aren’t his primary concern.

“At the end of the day I’m worried about wins and losses, so I’m willing to do whatever is going to help the team win,” Robison said. “Obviously, that’s up to the coaches, but I feel like – and this is in no way me giving up a position – but I think when you look at what Danielle has done, he’s earned the right or at least earned the shot at the starting position. We’ll see. We’ll have to battle it out at OTAs. But, he’s a heck of a player. He’s got a bright future in this league.”

Robison was clear that he isn’t surrendering his position, but he understands that, just like when the organization saw him as the better defensive end option over Edwards, the same may be true this time around with Hunter.

“I have the utmost confidence in my abilities,” Robison said. “But, if there’s a guy that comes in and earns the spot, then hats off to him. I feel like you look at the body of work he’s done this year and how can you not see it?”

Robison is entering the final year of his contract, which is set to pay him $6.6 million. There are some questions as to whether the Vikings will ask him to rework his deal if it is apparent that he is going to be a part-time player.

Robison didn’t want to discuss that possibility because, if anything is to be done, it likely wouldn’t be until closer to the start of the new league year. Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Robison is confident in his own abilities and that the coaching staff agrees.

When and if that time comes, Robison might be open to that discussion. But, for now, he just wants to get the 2016 season out of his mind, get some much-needed rest and get back at the annual grind of getting ready for the new season.

“That’s something that I’ll have to sit down and talk with my family, and if that happens that will be a conversation we have down the road,” Robison said. “Right now, I’m just ready to relax, go home, get some fishing in and get back to training here pretty soon.”

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