Goals Get Defensive Ends Publicity

The Vikings' lesser-known defensive ends are looking to take advantage of double teams elsewhere while publicly proclaiming their lofty goals.

Last year at training camp, Brian Robison said he wanted to break the rookie sack record. This year at the Vikings' draft party, Ray Edwards raised the bar, saying he wanted to break the NFL's all-time sack record.

Last year, Robison had 4½ sacks, falling well short of the team's rookie sack record of 11, set by Keith Millard in 1985, and the NFL rookie record of 14½, set by Jevon Kearse in 1999. Last year, Ray Edwards had five sacks, falling well short of the NFL single-season sack record of 22½, set by the New York Giants' Michael Strahan in 2001.

The Vikings' best pass-rushing defensive end, Jared Allen, led the league in sacks last year with 15½ , but he says he hasn't set his goals yet. When he does, he'll give them to his coach before the season to use as motivation for Allen during the season.

Different NFL players use various tactics to motivate themselves, but Edwards' bold proclamation on draft weekend to go after Strahan's record is suddenly getting more local and national attention in the media.

Edwards said he is studying film of Simeon Rice, Jason Taylor, Osi Umenyiora "and Jared Allen – but we've got him here so I can learn from him in person – Dwight Freeney, all the greats. I tried to get some Reggie White film, but can't nobody find me none."

Asked on Tuesday about Edwards' public goal of breaking the sack record, Robison offered a witty reply.

"I don't see how Ray's going to break the sack record if I'm going to be doing it every time he does it," Robison said with a grin. "If he thinks he can outrush me, then power to him, but I don't think it would happen."

On a serious note, Robison admits it's good for a defensive lineman to have confidence.

"It is, and that's the thing about our group. We have a great group. Everything is competitive, and even though I'll probably be the first guy off the bench, I plan on being up there with those guys," said the second-year player. "I tell him all the time, ‘You're going to have to get after it on the plays that you're in there because once I come in, it's going to be a sack every time.' Obviously that's not going to happen, but that's my outlook on it."

In the month since Edwards boldly and publicly proclaimed his goal, he said he really hasn't received much grief from teammates, coaches or opposing players.

"Not yet, but I'm pretty sure it's going to come. Once the media gets a hold of it, you know how you guys do it and make a big deal out it, but it all comes with the territory," he said, adding that he's not worried about attracting too much attention. "They ain't worried about me. I'm just the other guy on the defensive line. We've got three Pro Bowlers on the same line, so I'm just the other guy right now. I've got to make a name for myself."

Both Edwards and Robison figure opposing offenses will be double-teaming the Pro Bowl defensive linemen – Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Allen. If that happens, "I'll just go easy on down the road," said Edwards, who was suspended for the final four games of the season last year for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.

"I think Ray has had a real good offseason to this point. He really came back in January. He's been working since our season ended and hasn't missed one workout," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said last week. "His body looks good. He's really training hard and he needs OTAs (organized team activities). And the four times we've been out, he's looked very well. I think he's on pace to be an improved player. We'll move him to a different position than he played a season ago, left defensive end, but it doesn't seem like it's going to slow him down.

"Of course, we don't have any pads on yet, but his attitude has been tremendous. And Brian, he's going to be a right end like he was a year ago, and we're going to try to leave him at one position because of the depth that we now have, and we think he'll improve. We just expect it to happen from your first year to your second year with his talent to improve."

Robison agreed with that assessment.

"It's ridiculous how I go in and I watch film of last year and I think I was terrible. I think I was absolutely terrible," he said. "It's been little things, like having Jared come in here and teach me little things. The other biggest thing was (that) I had the elbow injury last year."

This year, Robison is nearly back to full strength and right in line with the Edwards, waiting to take advantage of the opportunities created by playing next to three Pro Bowlers.

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