Coaches Corner, Part II: WLB, MLB

The Vikings have a new middle linebacker this year and a converted middle linebacker playing on the weak side. See what position coach Pete Bercich had to say about those transitions.

Pete Bercich is in his first season as linebackers coach for the Vikings. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell spent the past season overseeing the linebackers, with Bercich assisting.

Bercich joined the Vikings coaching staff in 2002 as a defensive assistant/quality control coach, after playing for the Vikings from 1995-2000 as a linebacker and a standout on special teams. He has spent the last two seasons as the Vikings assistant linebackers coach. This year he is assisting Vikings defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Ted Cottrell.

Bercich played collegiately from 1990-93 at Notre Dame, where he earned a bachelor's degree in finance. He was drafted by the Vikings in the seventh round of the 1994 draft and spent the ensuing season on the team's practice squad. Bercich was a teammate of head coach Mike Tice in 1995.

Q: Mike Tice said Monday that E.J. Henderson looks good and that he is questionable to play this week. How is he looking?

As far as I know, he's coming along really well and hopefully we'll get him straightened out for this weekend. We need him. E.J.'s established himself as a starter at (weakside) linebacker and we missed him. We're just going to work like heck to get him back on the field.

Q: Prior to the injury, how was E.J. handling the switch over to weakside linebacker?

He had a pretty decent training camp last year too, but the switch has helped him a little bit. Any time you can go from the middle out toward the edges it gets a little easier mentally, but it gets tougher physically. The (middle) linebacker is one of the harder spots because you have guys coming from both ways. The move out there has helped him in that way. He's covered up more. It lets him be an athlete.

Q: Is the weakside best fit for E.J.?

We just try to get the best people we can on the field. If we have to tailor things to get guys to play the best to their abilities, that's what we will do. E.J. is in the second year in the same system and he's growing into it.

Q: After the playoffs last year you told the VU that the next step for Dontarrious Thomas was having that "light" come on. Has it yet?

He's shown more awareness in a lot of different things and he's becoming more of a professional. He's fighting through injuries, but he's kept himself on the field and he's done a good job. He played well enough f or us to win. His role is to take care of everything on third down. DT's coming along just fine, but he still has a long way to go.

Q: How did Dontarrious grade out against the Saints, considering it was his first start of the season?

He did just fine. E.J. does some things better, but DT does some things better. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. DT did a good job in coverage. He's one of the best man-to-man cover linebackers I've been around.

Q: Nice to have Sam Cowart back against the Saints?

There's no doubt. It's nice to have Sam. He always gives you a security blanket. He's always going to be where you need them to be. He has a command of the scheme.

Q: How sorely was he missed when he was out against Cincinnati?

Rod Davis played pretty darn well. It wasn't as much a game of adjustments, and I think Rod did some really nice things. He's shown the potential to be a starter in the NFL. His situation is a maturity thing and consistency. He has to show us he can consistently produce at that level — not just on defense, but on special teams.

Q: A couple of years ago, guys like Davis and Thomas would be starters for you out of necessity. The depth at linebacker has to be the best it's been in a while.

The only guy we had a question about was Rod, and in Cincinnati Rod has proven that he's the kind of guy that can get in there and get you through a game. Every one of my guys have started football games — all seven of them. The hardest thing in the league to get is experience and it's the most valuable to get.

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