What's Their Role?

Because he's a rookie, nobody knows for sure what to expect out of Chad Greenway's initial season in the NFL. Also, nobody knows for sure how much Koren Robinson will be asked to return kicks. So what did coach Brad Childress have to say about the roles of these two players and what has the evidence shown in open practices this spring?

With new starters dotting the landscape of their offense and their defense, there is one player on each of the ball that has received a fair amount of inquiry this spring.

It's uncertain how much first-round draft pick Chad Greenway will play this season, or if he'll even start. But head coach Brad Childress seemed fairly confident in saying that Greenway at least will focus on the weakside linebacker spot, even if the other veterans have spent most of the spring learning multiple linebacker positions.

"Most of those other linebackers have position flexibility. They have to know the big scheme of things, but yeah, we're primarily working him at that Will linebacker. We want him to know that forward and backward," Childress said.

The proof was on the field Wednesday in a practice session open to the media.

While Greenway was not taking repetitions with the first-team offense, he was consistently used as a weakside linebacker with the second-team offense. But just because a first-round draft pick isn't working with the first-team defense two months after the draft doesn't mean he isn't making progress.

Here is how Childress analyzed Greenway's progress since he was drafted on April 30: "Rough in that first minicamp, but I'd say that about all of the rookies. They are just trying to feel their way around. He tweaked a hamstring a little bit in the first minicamp, and of course we're getting after effort and we want guys flying to the football.

"I think he understands the tempo we are looking for. It shows up now because I think mainly because he knows a little bit more of what he is doing. It's hard to play fast when you don't know what you are doing. As the picture clears up, we see him play faster and faster."

On Wednesday, Ben Leber and Napoleon Harris were manning the outside linebacker spots while E.J. Henderson had the middle with the first-team defense. But the coaching staff continues to work different combinations of linebackers at different positions in an effort to have each of the veterans learn multiple positions and multiple roles.

On offense and special teams, the question has been how much Koren Robinson will be used in the kick return game versus the expectation that he will see a vastly expanded role on offense as the team's No. 1 receiver on opening day.

The real answer is probably months away as the coaches gauge Robinson's effectiveness on offense if he continues to return kickoffs.

Without Robinson at practice earlier this week, running back Mewelde Moore and wide receivers Ryan Hoag and Kevin Kasper spent time returning kicks.

"I am not necessarily looking for another option; I mean (Robinson) was an All-Pro kickoff returner," Childress said. "The unknown factor is when you factor in more snaps on offense, you just have to see if it takes away from his effectiveness. Where? Does it take away from his receiving effectiveness? Does it take away from his kickoff return effectiveness?

"I can remember when we had Brian Mitchell at the Eagles. He was good for maybe 10 plays, 15 plays during the game, and he wanted to play during the game but you saw a big hold down of his return ability. So you weigh what is more important – the starting wide receiver or the return abilities? So you have to play with those and weigh them a little bit."

Robinson told Viking Update earlier this spring that he'd like to continue returning kicks, a role that earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl following the 2005 season, but he didn't seem particularly bothered if that duty was taken from him, either.

The most likely scenario is that decision, along with Greenway's contributions, will be determined throughout the preseason schedule.


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