Contract puts focus on football for fullback

Rookie Ryan D'Imperio was the last Viking drafted and the first Vikings draft pick to sign a contract. With his contract providing incentives, D'Imperio can now focus on football and the transition to fullback, which he talked about during organized team activities.

Ryan D'Imperio is learning a lot these days, but he doesn't have to stress about when his contract will be complete. D'Imperio was the first Vikings draft pick to sign his contract and it provides him some assurances and some incentives.

The seventh-round draft pick received a signing bonus of roughly $47,000, according to a league source – about $35,000 more than he would have received if hadn't been drafted. He received the standard rookie minimum base salaries of $320,000 in 2010, $405,000 in 2011, $490,000 in 2012 and $575,000 in 2013 over the term of his four-year deal.

"It's just one more thing out of the way," D'Imperio said of the contract. "I don't have to worry about it later, so now it's just all focusing on football."

And a big transition from a college linebacker to an NFL fullback.

"I'm feeling comfortable with everything. I'm really starting to (grow)," he said. "I would say (the biggest adjustments) would be more of the footwork, and then blocking instead of tackling. That's the two biggest differences, I feel."

Where he plays isn't as big of a deal to D'Imperio as simply being able to play. If the Vikings hadn't worked him out as a fullback prior to the draft, he might not have gotten the chance he has, especially as a draft pick.

But, while going from defense to offense seems to be a big transition, the physical nature of both positions might bring some familiarity for him. For now, that will have to wait, as NFL teams don't start putting on the pads until minicamp and hitting in earnest until training camp starts at the end of July.

"I'll figure it out when we put pads on in camp," he said about the physical differences between linebacker and fullback.

But there is at least some familiarity for him. He played fullback in high school, although his assignments were much different than they will be in front of the Vikings' running backs.

"I did very well (in high school). It was more of Wing-T offense so I carried the ball a lot more than a did blocking or anything," he said.

That won't be the case with the Vikings. Although fullback Naufahu Tahi was in on almost 28 percent of the Vikings' offensive snaps last year, he carried the ball only three times and caught the ball only 10 times.

Last week at organized team activities, Tahi missed at least some practices, which allowed D'Imperio to get more hands-on experience.

"It's nice to just get in there and getting as many reps as possible," he said. "I'm learning a lot from experiencing it and I'm seeing it from a different perspective instead of just watching film, which helps a lot. It goes a long way."

D'Imperio's first task will be making the team. As a seventh-rounder, that's not a guarantee, but the Vikings seem to know that the more he practices, the more comfortable he'll become with his new position, which is likely why they put an incentive in his contract that calls for him to participate in 90 percent of the organized team activities – teams are allowed 14 of those voluntary offseason practices each year – or he will lose $50,000 a season.

At least now he doesn't have to worry about the business side of the NFL with his contract complete. He has plenty of other things to occupy his mind when it comes to playing fullback.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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