Kennedy getting a nose for the nose

Jimmy Kennedy is entering his eighth NFL season, but he's playing behind a 14-year veteran in Pat Williams and learning all he can from the Pro Bowl player in front of him. Kennedy talked about his progression in the defense, learning from Williams and what might lie ahead.

When is an eight-year veteran and former first-round draft pick taking advice from another player at his position in the NFL? When the eight-year veteran is Jimmy Kennedy and the other player is a Pro Bowl player like Pat Williams, who is going into his 14th NFL season.

While Williams has said 2010 could be the final chapter in his NFL career – he's in the last year of his current contract – Kennedy is trying to soak up all of that football knowledge from the guy in front of him on the depth chart.

"I love Pat so I always get to pick his brain for the nose guard spot and everything else," Kennedy said at the end of the offseason workouts. "Nothing really counts until you put the pads on. That's when you really see the tough man come out."

The Vikings will start putting the pads on next Friday when they open their 50th training camp, the 45th consecutive year holding it on the campus of Minnesota State, Mankato (formerly known as Mankato State).

Kennedy was signed by the Vikings late in the 2008 season and, after being inactive for two of the first four games last year, came on strong after spending more time in coordinator Leslie Frazier's system and getting used to playing both nose tackle and the three technique (Kevin Williams' position).

But Kennedy has continued to pick up on pointers from Pat.

"Fourteen years of experience, the guy knows all the tricks, all the crafty stuff and everything else – different blocks. And then, you know, it's like being out there with your brother. I've been able to pick his brain and he's just unloading a bunch of knowledge on me," Kennedy said. "He's playing the game with me. It's not as if the coaches can be out here and tell me what to do all day long. Pat is like, ‘I'm out of the game, but make sure you do this and keep doing this.' It helps out."

Kennedy has been spending more time learning Pat's position because most of his career was spent using the different techniques employed by Kevin's position, something that Kennedy calls "second nature" to him. But when it comes to the overall defense, Kennedy, the first-round (12th overall) draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2003, is still learning.

"Overall, I know where I need to be and everything else. Now it's just about mastering my craft, trying to eliminate the mistakes – little things, proper steps and everything else," he said.

That could come with stability in his career. In 2009, he tied his career high with three sacks, playing in 13 games and making one start in the regular season (posting nine tackles in that Week 16 start against Chicago). His 29 tackles last year were the most since his 2006 season, and he played in both playoff games, registering three tackles and a sack.

But Kennedy said he isn't assuming anything with his future. As a former first-round pick that bounced from St. Louis to Jacksonville to Chicago to Minnesota, he knows things don't always go according to plan. Right now, he might look like the heir apparent to Pat Williams, but he has no idea what the future holds there.

"That part has got to come down with Coach Frazier and all those guys. I don't know if they believe in me enough to take over for Pat. That's big shoes to fill," he said. "That's just like when Brett (Favre) leaves, T-Jack (Tarvaris Jackson) or whoever else is playing quarterback, they're going to have big shoes to fill.

"It's more on those guys. If they don't believe in me and believe I can take over, so be it and we'll see. We'll get somebody else next year and keep rolling. If not, let the chips fall where they may. I've been through a bunch of (B.S) in my career. Believe me, they can't throw something at me that I haven't seen yet. I just roll with the punches."

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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