Pinner Knows His Role

Fighting for a valuable roster spot, running back Artose Pinner isn't fazed by the situation and isn't openly campaigning for more opportunities. See what the fifth-year pro is saying about his chances and how he approaches Saturday's impending cut date.

After four seasons in the NFL, Artose Pinner has been down this roster-cutdown road before. In fact, it was just last year when Pinner was released by the Detroit Lions in the last roster trimming to get to the NFL-mandated maximum of 53 players on the active roster.

"As far as the roster aspect, I really haven't thought about that much because the only thing I can control is my performance – being technique-sound, being assignment-sound. The rest is up to the staff and management. I really can't control that aspect so I really haven't been worrying about it," said the running back who has survived three of the previous roster trimmings of his professional football life. "Maybe if it was my first year I'd be real nervous, but this is my fifth year and I know how the business works. And just being a professional about everything, you just go out there when your number is called, just go out and make the most of the opportunity to put it on film so you can show them that you want to be here or you can make plays for this team."

Pinner is definitely behind Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson on the depth chart. Depending on what the team is looking for, he is either ahead of or behind Mewelde Moore. Pinner considers himself more of a "bruiser" short-yardage back while Moore is a third-down, finesse running back. It appears that both Moore and Pinner are ahead of Ciatrick Fason in the pecking order.

"I know this is my livelihood, it's my job, but I truly have the mindset of – I know Chester had a great season last year, I know they drafted Adrian with the seventh pick – so you have to be realistic about things because those two are going to get the bulk of the opportunities, so the third and fourth slot, you have to know your role as far as fill-in if somebody gets hurt or somebody gets tired," Pinner said. "You can be that guy and contribute on special teams as well. The more you can do leads to longevity."

Last year, the Vikings ended the season with six running backs on their roster – Taylor, Pinner, Moore, Fason, Wendell Mathis and fullback Naufahu Tahi – and Jeff Dugan was more of a fullback after Tony Richardson's season-ending injury than tight end, a position Dugan is still listed at despite practicing as a fullback all offseason.

So even if the Vikings keep six running backs to start this season, among the must-haves are Taylor, Peterson, Richardson and likely Dugan as versatile insurance behind Richardson again. That might leave only two spots available for Moore, Pinner, Fason and Tahi. With Richardson and Dugan running with the first and second teams at fullback most of the offseason, Tahi is likely not a strong candidate for the active roster, but that still leaves three running backs for what might only be one roster spot.

"I think we all do things that really complement this system as far as catching the ball out the backfield, running between the tackles," Pinner said. "I'm a little bigger back, so I'm more of a bruiser, more straight-line type runner. (Moore and Fason are) a bit more elusive, I think. I think all three of us have something to contribute to the offense."

"Any time that you put a player in there and he continually does it the right way and continually does it the way that we ask him to, that is what builds confidence in us," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said earlier this month when asked about Pinner. "These guys would not be here if they didn't have the skills and ability to play at this level, but it is being detailed in their performance and doing it right every time. Artose … is starting to show that and he is starting to flash for us."

Head coach Brad Childress said at the beginning of training camp that Pinner was a player the coaches talk about every night, saying they know what he can do with the ball in his hands and that he has gotten better in pass protection.

Pinner just patiently waits for his chance to strut his stuff without complaint.

"It's kind of like last year. I wasn't getting a lot of reps, but I continued to work and work and work, and then when my opportunity came, I made the most of it and I made some plays for this team," said Pinner, who started only one game last year but rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns against his former Detroit Lions teammates. "There are some guys who get into a slump and talk about, ‘I'm not playing enough' or ‘They should be doing this, they should be doing that.' Then when the opportunity comes they're not ready because they're too bitter about the issue. My whole mindset is I keep pressing, keep working, and then when my opportunity comes just take advantage of it."

Pinner definitely knows his role, which is why he wasn't discouraged last Saturday when Fason and Moore were given back-to-back goal-line rushing opportunities in the fourth quarter.

"At that time I had already played the third quarter so it was Mewelde and Ciatrick," Pinner said without a hint of jealously. Incidentally, Fason was stopped at the 1-yard line for no gain and Moore lost 2 yards and the football on the ensuing carry.

Which leaves the three of them with only one more preseason game Thursday night to vie for a roster spot.

"I think I'm taking the approach to this game with the mindset of any other game because each chance you get in the preseason is a job interview. This one I might have a little more opportunity, but I'm taking the same approach," Pinner said.

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