Robison can relate to Griffen

Rookie Everson Griffen thought he'd be selected sooner in the draft and wants to prove his critics wrong. Veteran Brian Robison can relate to Griffen's situation and talked about the rookie transition and how things change the longer he's in the league. Robison also talked about his approach to Ray Edwards' absence.

During the first week of full-team OTAs, one of the things that stood out the most was who wasn't on the field during an open-access practice and who was. No, that isn't a comment on the absence of Brett Favre. In the first practice that was opened to the media on Wednesday, only two starters were taking reps with the first team – safeties Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson. The rest of the Vikings stars were no-shows on the field.

That doesn't mean, however, that there were no veteran players out practicing. There were several that were helping the younger players get their feet wet with what it takes to make it at the pro level. Among them is defensive end Brian Robison. He has spent most of his first days of OTAs making young offensive linemen look foolish in one-on-one drills and offering pointers to the young defensive linemen on the roster.

He said making the jump from college to the NFL is as a big a jump – maybe bigger than the transition from high school to the college game. He said the role of the experienced guys is to help along the younger players with the added rigors of the game as a professional.

"There's obviously a big difference between the college level and the pro level," Robison said. "Some of the guys are learning that just as I learned it in my rookie year. It's just one of those things where everybody has got to get better. Surprisingly, we still have a lot of vets out here and we'll have more next week."

Robison admitted that some players get miffed when the team adds a free agent or draft prospect at their position, but said he doesn't have any of those feelings toward rookie DE Everson Griffen. As a veteran, Robison knows how close the Vikings are to be a Super Bowl contender and understands that depth is just as important as what you have in your starting lineup, adding that young blood merely gets the competitive juices flowing even more.

"Sometimes there are times when a veteran guy may take it as an insult if the team brings in a guy at his position," Robison said. "But I take it as a way of saying, ‘We took this guy for a reason – to make our team better.' If I'm confident in my abilities, I'm confident enough to help him out. That's what I'm doing now. I'm helping (Griffen) out, because the better he is, the better it makes our team."

Robison is expected to see a lot of action with the first unit during the coming OTAs as restricted free agent Ray Edwards continues to stay away from practice. Edwards, who was denied unrestricted free agency when the league opted out of the collective bargaining agreement it had with its players association, has chosen not to sign his tendered offer from the team in hopes of working out a long-term extension. Robison said the players understand that Edwards is concerned about the financial security of his family and, even though he isn't at Winter Park for the OTA practices, he is still on the minds of his teammates. When asked if the unofficial war of words between Edwards' representatives and the Vikings have been a distraction, Robison said it's just part of the business of the NFL

"A lot of people have asked me about that," Robison said. "That's something that Ray feels he has to do. We're not going to talk about it here. Obviously, if he comes back, we're going to support him. We'll support him whatever he feels he has to do. But at the same time, we have to do our work out here. That's what we're doing. We're working hard, regardless of what happens with all the outside factors. It's kind of weird to go in the locker room and not see him, but, at the same time, you've got to do the same work week in and week out. You're never going to have the same team two years in a row."

Entering his fourth season, Robison said he isn't that far removed from his first practice sessions with the Vikings and remembers how nervous he was coming in. He believed that he was going to be a second- or third-round draft choice and, when he slipped all the way into the fourth round (where the Vikings traded up to get him), he was upset and wanted to make sure the Vikings realized what a bargain they got. He said he got wound up pretty tightly, but that he has harnessed that nervous energy and used it to his advantage – then and now.

"Without a doubt there's a lot of nerves involved," Robison said. "Some people can put a front on. I know I put a big front on when I came in, acting like I was confident in what I was doing. When you first come in here, you don't know exactly what type of player you are until you start doing things. I came in here with a chip on my shoulder and trying to prove people wrong – that I was one of the better players out there. It worked out well for me. It's still working for me, because I still play with that same chip on my shoulder. But, at first, it was very nerve-wracking."

While he has the security of a roster spot, Robison said it isn't going to change how he approaches the game. The only difference he is starting to realize is that the longer a player is in the NFL, the game slows down and becomes easier to read, but that the physical toll can catch up. It takes longer every year to shake the little aches and pains that come with the first few days of practices.

"It gets a little easier on the technique and the nerves aspect of it, but it gets a little harder on your body," Robison said. "We had our first day of practice (Tuesday). I've been working my butt off all offseason and, when I got up (Wednesday morning), I was sore. It was kind of a good surprise for me to wake up, get out of bed and say, ‘Oh, what's that?' It's a good feeling knowing that you're getting your body back into shape for another season. That's what we're all looking to do – come back in the best possible condition all of us can be in and try to finish what we have been building on the last couple of years."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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