Lurtsema's Reaction: Rookie camp review

The Vikings' rookie camp provided a first look at the draft picks and those players trying out for the team. Bob Lurtsema had a chance to watch the newcomers, especially the defensive linemen that are close to his heart, and came away with mixed reviews. He also talks about what's important for those making a position switch and the key to Toby Gerhart's success.

VU: What did you see out of the rookie camp?

BL: When you look at the draft, sometimes you are looking for what's leftover when it comes to a rookie camp with all those unsigned guys trying out. This year, there were so many defensive linemen drafted early, and what was left over for the rookie camp was very, very little. I watched them in their drills, how they came up too high in their stance and how they lost their body control and their footwork and I thought some of those guys were terrible. Then I have to remember that the first day some of those guys were probably a little shell-shocked and they're not going with their instincts and were thinking too much. I kind of ended up justifying a negative, but the more I thought about it maybe it was because there were so many defensive linemen drafted.

VU: What were your thoughts on Everson Griffen and picking him up at the beginning of the fourth round? What did you see out of him and did you think it was good value?

BL: I thought it was great value. When you watch his feet and his stance, he's getting off the ball properly. As I mentioned earlier, players in college can get away with their first movement being straight up and it fails them in the pros. He got real low and has great extension and he always had great body control. A lot of times when they fly off the ball, they might need a split second to regroup and get their body under control – he constantly had his body under control, which I think is a God-given talent to a degree. I don't know if you can teach a person who is a little awkward to smooth out his control. Some things you just can't teach. As a defensive lineman who watches it a lot, I don't think you can teach that.

VU: As long as we're on defensive linemen, one of the interesting names that was at the rookie camp was Dexter Manley Jr. The Vikings didn't end up signing him, but do you think he's got any chance to catch on with an NFL team?

BL: I watched him somewhat close because I had my son make it with the Saints before, but unfortunately Robbie had some injuries, and he was probably 10 times the athlete I ever thought of being and I'm not exaggerating. Manley's old man was a tough, hard-nosed player and I didn't see that out of Junior. Sometimes you see the sons of former players going extra hard because of their old man and they show a little more heart, but I didn't any heart or energy out of him. Sometimes that's hard to judge. Sometimes I relate to what I did too much, but I remember I was always first in line, I sprinted to every drill and I did all the stupid things a rookie is supposed to do, but I wanted to let them know that I wanted to make the team. Show them that you're a leader. I'll never forget when I was the first one to come back from a sprint and Coach Shula said, "Lurtsema, what are you doing back here first?" I said, "I want to make this (expletive) team." I couldn't believe I swore and used bad language with Coach Shula.

VU: Did you get much of a look at cornerback Chris Cook?

BL: I watched him in some bag drills and that was all. It seemed like he had a good drop step and was good at getting back in coverage and looked decent with his lateral movement. I noticed when he dropped back, he shuffled his feet rather easily and, more importantly, quickly.

VU: The whole dynamic between Toby Gerhart and Adrian Peterson, what sort of role do you think Gerhart will end up with?

BL: The thing that's most impressive right now is that he's a very bright rookie. He's in the playbook already and seems to understand the blocking scheme for the second back. Especially in a passing situation, if he's in there on a split back or a third-down situation, he might be the back that has to block. The way he played at Stanford, they used him there a lot and he seemed to be complimented by his coach as far as picking up the different defenses, and the blitzes especially. I think, as good as he can run, what a great complement to Adrian Peterson. But more importantly is if he still maintains Chester Taylor's awareness on the blitz. That's hard to teach, too. Some players never seem to pick it up. It's almost like the thing that I talk about all the time with the quarterbacks and what they can see. It's the same thing on blitz pickup with the running backs. As a defense, we're trying to throw every imaginable look at him and trying to break somebody free. We try to disguise it as long as we can. It's a mental game, as far as blitzes go, between the defense and the most important man in the backfield, that being the remaining back.

VU: They've got a couple guys trying to make position switches in college to the pros – Joe Webb going from quarterback to wide receiver and Ryan D'Imperio going from linebacker to fullback. How difficult do you think that is to go from one spot in college to a completely different spot in the pros?

BL: To switch positions from college to the pros is huge and it's all about coaching, coaching, coaching. The coach has to accelerate a program but not over-accelerate. He's got to be sure whatever he teaches – if it's Football 101 at fullback to a former linebacker, he can't go on to the next level, Football 201 for a fullback, unless the coach knows he's grasped everything at the next level while going from college to pros. Can the players handle it – I don't know. But the coaches have got to be very delicate with how much they give their players. I'm not talking about baby-sitting these players – they're college graduates – but the coaches have to give him enough that he can grasp and improve on things without having a lot of setbacks.

Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

Viking Update Top Stories