Desmond Bishop had a familiar feeling as he checked into the dorms at Minnesota State in Mankato, Minn. for Minnesota Vikings training camp on Thursday, learning he would be rooming with receiver Greg Jennings.
The two had played together the past six seasons with the Green Bay Packers and signed with Minnesota in the offseason. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made it clear there would be few familiar aspects for Bishop.
Speaking on Minnesota’s training camp report date, Frazier said Bishop will open practice on Friday as an outside linebacker in the Vikings’ 4-3 defense. Bishop had played inside during his time in the Packers’ 3-4 defense.
“We talked about starting him off maybe at outside linebacker knowing that we can move him back inside, we’re going to finalize that as we talk today,” Frazier said. “We feel like that would be the place we want to start him at, and let him continue to grow from there. As part of what we do at this time of the year, because he’s coming in so late and what we’re trying to get accomplished, is get him up to speed on how we do things from a defensive standpoint, because we line up a bit different than what he’s done in the past. So, we got to kind of indoctrinate him with things from a defensive standpoint and we think the best way of getting that done is starting him off at outside.”
Bishop’s signing likely filled the final starting linebacker spot in Minnesota’s defense. But instead of keeping Bishop inside and giving him the chance to win the starting job at middle linebacker, the Vikings will keep Erin Henderson in the middle during practice. Henderson made a move in the offseason from the weakside linebacker to the middle, leaving the hole on the outside that Bishop was seemingly signed to fill.
Frazier said the team had looked at tape on Bishop and determined he was better set on the outside. Bishop hasn’t had a chance to practice with Minnesota because he signed after the minicamp in June.
“I think that one of the things I liked was the fact that he was a very good blitzer,” Frazier said. “He has some good athletic ability and that’s what we try to find in our outside backer guys and the ability to win one-on-one against halfbacks and fullbacks, but yet they’re good in coverage as well and they can take on lead blockers, and he’s shown that he can do that.”
Bishop and Henderson will likely compete to fill the other nickel linebacker spot as well, alongside Chad Greenway. Bishop, who was released by Green Bay after missing all of last season with a torn hamstring, reiterated he’s fully healed and ready for practice, saying he has “no limitations.”
Bishop isn’t worried about the transition outside or to Minnesota’s 4-3 scheme either.
“At this point, just playing football is the best fit,” Bishop said. “I’m just anxious to get out there and show what I can do…I don’t think there will be too much (transition). All defenses are different but my entire life I played in a 4-3. I just recently switched to a 3-4 and everyone’s asking how I’m going to adjust to a 3-4. It was pretty simple and switching back to a 4-3 won’t be too hard.”
As for having a familiar roommate?
“I’ve never been his roommate before,” Bishop said. “As long as he doesn’t snore a lot or nothing weird we should get along real good.”
Jennings joked he hopes Bishop will give him his space as a roommate, but he is happy to see Bishop with the Vikings.
“We had a chance to ride up here together and I think it’s now strange that we’re together in our dorm room as well,” Jennings said. “I was sharing some things with him that’s kind of between him and I. But we’re definitely going to get closer as just teammates and as young men. What he brings to the table is something we need. He’s a guy who has experience. He knows how to do things. He knows how to go about winning. He’s experienced winning. But at the same time, he’s had to work to get everything that he’s had. Nothing has been handed to him. He’s had to work for everything he’s accomplished. So he knows how to go out and get what he wants. And I think with a young team, you kind of have to kind of show them how to go get what we want in the right way, in doing it the right way.”
Childs likely only player headed for PUP list: Frazier said that receiver Greg Childs, still trying to recover from torn patellar tendons in both of his knees suffered during training camp last year, is probably the only player that will open camp on the physically unable to perform list.
Frazier was cautious because the players still had to go through physicals. Center John Sullivan, who missed the offseason program while recovering from knee surgery, shouldn’t have to start camp on the PUP list.
“We think that he’s going to be ready to go,” Frazier said. “We don’t foresee any changes from what we talked about a few days ago. So, now we will have to monitor his reps, we won’t just throw him in there and take every rep we’re going to kind of bring him along until he gets that confidence he wants that he has to have in that knee but we don’t see any reason why we won’t be playing him in the preseason.”
Frazier did say the team won’t overload MVP running back Adrian Peterson in camp. Peterson missed all of the preseason last year while he was returning from reconstructive knee surgery and had his best season.
“We probably won’t see Adrian getting a whole lot of carries in the preseason,” Frazier said. “We will have plenty of time to get him carries but he’ll get some opportunities in the preseason, his work load will be when we kick off the season, but not in the preseason.”
Vikings avoided distractions: While the off-field distractions were plenty in the NFL in the month between minicamps and the start of training camps, Minnesota avoided having any issues. In the past, the Vikings unfortunately were known for issues. But Frazier was pleased to see his players stay out of trouble.
“I tell you, I don’t take that part of it lightly,” Frazier said. “I’m definitely going to mention that tonight, I thought about it through this offseason as I’ve seen the different headlines across our league with some of the things that have occurred. The fact that our players have really done a good job of staying out of the newspapers for negative things, I don’t think you take that for granted, I don’t.
“I’m going to talk with them about that and what we have to get done going forward, but I think it’s important. I think that’s a major part of having a chance to be successful in this league as you are changing the culture of a football team, and an organization to go through this offseason. I was teasing Les Pico, our player development director, when I saw him yesterday I said, ‘Not one time did I see your name flash up on my phone when I picked up this summer.’ And I said, ‘That’s a good thing.’ It hasn’t always been the case so I’m encouraged by that.”