EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Defensive end Brian Robison has been a quiet, consistent defender against the run and pass for the Minnesota Vikings in his nearly two full seasons as a starter, but his absence could be felt if he isn’t able to play in next week’s game against the Houston Texans.
Robison, a six-year veteran, suffered a right shoulder injury in Sunday’s 36-22 win against the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier was unsure Monday if Robison would be able to return in time for another important game for the Vikings’ playoff chances Sunday at Houston.
Following Sunday’s game, Frazier said the injury was an AC sprain and Robison would be headed for an MRI. A day later, Frazier said the team’s doctors have a good idea of what the injury is and Robison would only be heading for an X-ray, with Frazier calling it “just a matter of time now.”
“Injury-wise, the only guy that’s really banged up to the point that he’ll be questionable for Sunday is Brian Robison,” Frazier said. “We’ll have to see how he does throughout the week with that shoulder injury, and we’ll get a better gauge towards the end of the week whether or not he has a chance or not.”
Robison is one of the unsung components of a Minnesota defensive line that includes four-time All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen and five-time All-Pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams. Robison had one sack before leaving Sunday’s game giving him 7.5 on the season, just a half sack shy of his single-season career-best set in his first full year as a starter in 2011.
Needing a pivotal win on Sunday at Houston (12-2), the Vikings (8-6) could use Robison against the Texans’ sixth-ranked offense, averaging 142 rushing yards per game which is fifth in the league.
Against the Rams on Sunday, and holding a lead, Minnesota was successful with backup Everson Griffen filling in for Robison and having a big impact on the game with his interception return for a touchdown. Griffen, known mainly as a pass rusher used specifically on passing downs, played a season-high 69 snaps on Sunday and a season-high 85 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He finished with one tackle, one pass deflection, one quarterback hit and the big interception.
“That interception he made, along with some of the pressures he created when he was rushing, he did an outstanding job,” Frazier said. “He usually doesn’t play quite that many reps. To come in and consistently play as hard as he did for as long as he did, that’s a good sign for our football team. We hoped that he’d be able to do it, and he did. So I’m very, very encouraged.”
Griffen, who’s third on the team with five sacks this year, will need to stay strong against the run if pressed into more action on Sunday. But he showed his unique athleticism on his interception and return. Griffen, 6-foot-3 and 273 pounds, dropped back in a zone blitz and stepped right in front of a pass intended for St. Louis tight end Lance Kendricks, then showed off his speed to get to the end zone.
It was those unique athletic traits that led Minnesota to try Griffen out at linebacker during the last two offseasons. But, inevitably, he was moved back to the defensive line each time. However, his practice at linebacker might have paid off Sunday when he looked like a linebacker dropping into coverage.
“That’s one of the attributes that he has,” Frazier said. “He’s one of those guys that can drop back in coverage, but yet he can put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer as well. That makes him unique in that regard. That’s one of the reasons we looked at him at linebacker. But some of the traits you saw on that play were linebacker traits; the catch, the turn, and of course the run as well. You just don’t see D-linemen be able to run down the sideline like he did. He’s a very fluid athlete and you definitely could see some of those linebacker traits.”
Team not focusing on Peterson’s pursuit of Dickerson: With another big game Sunday, running back Adrian Peterson continued his climb toward Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.
Peterson, who had 212 yards Sunday and is now 294 away from breaking the record, has said he’d like to reach Dickerson’s mark and the team wants to help him to the total, but Frazier said the focus is still playoffs first, Peterson second.
“Adrian and I were just talking a few minutes ago about that part of things and what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Frazier said. “That’s to go out and get a win on the road in Houston. The record would be great. But the most important thing is to get a win in Houston. And the fact that he feels that way, that will permeate through the rest of our team. He wants to really concentrate on winning this game, more so than the record.
“Our players are enthused by what he’s been doing. It’s been incredible to watch, and they are pulling for him without question. I think every one of our guys knows the importance of winning this game. If the record comes that would be terrific, but the most important thing is to get a win.”
Turning up the heat: With temperatures expected to be in the 70s on Sunday at Houston, Frazier said the heat would be turned up in the team’s field house for practice this week to simulate the environment expected in Houston’s Reliant Stadium and to acclimate players as much as possible.
“We are going to heat this place up,” Frazier said. “Our players don’t know that yet, but on Wednesday when they come back we’re going to warm it up a little bit. They’re predicting about 72 to 75, which is a lot different than where we are right now. We’re going to try to simulate that as best we can in our indoor. But yeah, we’re going to try to warm it up a little bit.”
Reliant Stadium is a retractable-roof, grass-field facility with the roof retracting over the majority of the football field. Minnesota is 8-1 indoors this season, 0-5 outdoors, including a loss at Indianapolis with its retractable roof open.