EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Some amount of nervousness would have been expected for Desmond Bishop in last week’s preseason game.
Despite six seasons in the NFL, Bishop was playing in his first game in over a year. He suffered the torn hamstring that caused him to miss all of last season in the first preseason game of 2012.
A lot had changed for Bishop during the past year. He had gone from wearing No. 55 in the Green Bay Packers’ green and gold as an established starter to pulling on No. 59 in purple and white with the Minnesota Vikings and trying to prove himself while working with the second-team defense against the Buffalo Bills backups in the third quarter.
But after more than 365 days of waiting, Bishop was finally in an NFL game again.
“I think it was very important,” Bishop said. “After a long period, to get out there and get my feet wet, so to speak, help me build my confidence and I was able to come out unscathed and my injuries held up good. It was just another stepping stone and I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Bishop’s next game — Sunday at San Francisco in Minnesota’s third preseason game — might be the shot he needs to prove himself to the Vikings. Bishop, who missed the first preseason game while dealing with a training camp groin injury, is likely to see some time with the first-team defense against the 49ers on Sunday. Minnesota’s coaches want to see how Bishop reacts against quality opponents.
“You want to see if a guy can execute against good-on-good,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “I think that’s one of the things we’ll try to do this week, is make sure the guys that we’re looking at get good-on-good.”
Williams said other second-team defensive players could be mixed in with the first-team on Sunday, but the Vikings want to get a good look at Bishop, who’s played behind Marvin Mitchell since signing with the team in June after the offseason program had ended.
“In Desmond’s case, its specifically designed to see him against their good players, their best players,” coach Leslie Frazier said.
Bishop played 26 snaps last week against Buffalo, 32 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and came away with four assisted tackles and a half-sack. Able to exercise any nervousness, Bishop seemed to become more comfortable as the game went on.
He was the closest player around when Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel found a wide-open Brad Smith for a touchdown, but Bishop told reporters after the game that Smith wasn’t his responsibility on the play.
Bishop’s strengths and instincts showed later on a third-quarter series when he had three of his four tackles and a sack. Bishop sliced through blockers to stop one run out wide for no gain and ended the series by taking on a block by the running back and powering through to sack Manuel, meeting up at the same time as safety Andrew Sendejo.
“There were some plays where he played downhill,” Williams said. “He had some good tackles and I think if you talk with him, he’d say there are some plays he left out there on the field, which can be expected with the first extensive full action that he’s had. What we’re looking for is to see if he can improve on those things that he didn’t do so well and correct those and get better.”
Bishop, whose first time in uniform for the Vikings was in training camp, said he’d be “elated” if he got the chance to play with the first-team defense this week.
“I want to be a lot more efficient,” Bishop said. “And I think with better efficiency comes more plays and I think that will give me a little bit of comfort to play better. I’m looking forward to it.”
After a year away from the field, and a groin injury that interrupted his time with Minnesota, Bishop’s eager to demonstrate he can return to the same level when he was one of Green Bay’s top defensive players. Mitchell, with the benefit of a year in the system, has been the starter at weakside linebacker throughout the preseason.
Frazier said it’s too early to declare any starting jobs won. Bishop is still being given a chance to emerge as a starter. Bishop is out to prove he deserves the job.
“I feel like you always have something to prove,” Bishop said. “Whether you are Adrian Peterson, who rushed for so many yards, I believe he feels this year he has something to prove. And if he has something to prove, then we all do. I feel like I have a lot to prove.”