The difference this year is Russell is coming off a season in which he started all 16 games, played every single down and tied for the league lead in interceptions with nine.
But Russell is the ultimate overachiever. He's 6-2, 204 pounds, a former rookie free agent who played quarterback until switching to defensive back his junior year.
His competition at free safety this summer is Willie Offord, the same chiseled prototype defensive back who goes about 220 and was a third-round draft pick in 2002. The same Willie Offord that Russell beat soundly in training camp last summer.
But Ted Cottrell is the new defensive coordinator, replacing George O'Leary, who replaced Willie Shaw before last season. Like the others, Cottrell will have to see Russell beat out Offord to believe it can happen.
Unlike last season, when Russell started training camp on the bubble as a third free safety behind Offord and Jack Brewer, who has since been cut, Russell starts camp this summer as the No. 1 free safety.
Don't expect him to lose his grip on the top spot. Yes, Russell needs to work on tackling and taking better angles to the ball carrier. But he also is relatively new to the position.
He has a great work ethic and might be the best-conditioned player on the team. He also doesn't mind having to prove himself. Again.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm going to make sure those guys are my best friends. With (first-round draft pick Kenechi) Udeze coming in, there's so much speed up there, so it's going to be really exciting." — Cornerback Antoine Winfield, referring to the Vikings' defensive line, which has gone from a weakness a few years ago to a team strength.