To call last year a bit frenzied for wide receiver Koren Robinson might be an understatement.
The former first-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks was released following a series of incidents that showed that alcohol was a bigger priority in his life than his profession. The Seahawks had finally had enough of his tardiness and dumped him onto the scrap heap known as the NFL waiver wire.
No team touched Robinson while he checked himself into a treatment facility, and when he was ready for his release, the Vikings came calling at the request of Robinson's former North Carolina State teammate, cornerback Brian Williams.
Robinson cleaned up his personal life, cleaned up his professional actions and turned in a Pro Bowl performance as a kick returner, taking 47 kickoffs for 1,221 yards (26-yard averaged) and one touchdown.
As a receiver, however, Robinson was used sparingly in 2005, catching only 22 passes for 347 yards, well below his four-year average of 53 catches for 792 yards per season with the Seahawks. That was also a different offense, and this year the Vikings, with a new coaching staff, are employing a similar scheme to the one Robinson became used to in Seattle.
"It's very similar (to Seattle's), it's the same thing," Robinson said. "The West Coast offense is really the same thing, it's just different terminology. It's really easy. I already know the whole offense. I just fell right in."
Last year, the Vikings tried to be a vertical offense, but they were without Randy Moss for the first time since 1998. It took until December before Robinson caught his first touchdown pass, a career-long 80-yarder from Brad Johnson. His 148 yards receiving in that game against Detroit was also the first 100-yard performance by a Vikings wide receiver in the 2005 season.
A betting man wouldn't expect Robinson to repeat that performance with more 80-yard touchdowns in 2006. The offense, and his role in it, have changed dramatically – and Robinson seems to feel that is for the better.
"This offense right here, it allows me to work in the slot. Last year, I didn't really work in the slot," he said. "This year, I will be able to go outside and inside, which will help me out or go to my advantage because I'm a big receiver going against a little guy in the slot position. So I feel like this offense will let me show more areas of my game."
After signing a three-year, $12.7 million contract with a $5.5 million signing bonus, there were questions about how his role might change. For starters, he is expected to be the No. 1 receiver in a comfort zone with the West Coast offense, not brought along slowly in an offense that is unfamiliar to him.
Robinson is also expected to continue returning kicks. He says he still wants to do that, but he isn't sure if the coaching staff will let him do that as the No. 1 receiver. However, since every player is supposed to be on one special teams unit, Robinson figures that he'll remain in his role as a kick returner, which propelled him to a Pro Bowl berth last year.
But the biggest changes for Robinson in 2006 are the expectations on him as a No. 1 receiver once again. After 235 career receptions for 3,514 yards and 13 touchdowns, he is back in the limelight on offense and happy to be doing it in a familiar scheme.
"That was a reason (to re-sign), not having to go somewhere and learn a whole new offense," he said.
That, and the Vikings' confidence that the worst of his struggles off the field are behind him.
Koren Robinson Back in Familiar Territory
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