Solomon Elimimian (Kim Klement/US Presswire)
Vikings linebacker Solomon Elimimian knows the negatives against him when it comes to his size, but he packs a punch. Plus, Fusco making the transition, the Arkansas receivers bringing a winning history and it could be a rookie safety duo.
Backup linebacker Solomon Elimimian made an impression on Vikings linebackers coach Fred Pagac during the team’s May 4-6 rookie minicamp.
Elimimian, 25, isn’t a rookie, but was invited to the camp because his NFL experience is limited to two preseason games as a rookie with the Bills in 2009. He spent the past two seasons playing in the CFL, where he won the league’s most outstanding rookie award and a Grey Cup title with British Columbia last season. Elimimian also won back-to-back titles as the CFL’s “hardest hitter,” according to a poll of league’s players.
Said Pagac to vertically-challenged Elimimian: “So, how tall are you?”
Answer: “I told Mr. Pagac, `I’m 5-foot-11 and a half. And make sure you remember that half.”
Later, when asked by a reporter how a 225-pound linebacker could make it in the NFL, Elimimian said, “Actually, I’m 230 pounds.”
Elimimian’s style of play is old-school. So is the way he and some of his teammates discuss that style.
“I played with Solly up there (in the CFL) in 2010,” said Vikings receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux. “Toronto had a running back, Cory Boyd, from South Carolina. Solly hit him one time and Cory was asleep by the time he hit the ground.”
A year ago, Brandon Fusco was a rookie center drafted in the sixth round out of Division II Slippery Rock. Today, he’s preparing for a training camp battle that will determine whether he or free-agent acquisition Geoff Schwartz starts at right guard.
“Last year my goal was to obviously make the team, establish myself on the team,” Fusco said. “This year though, it’s nothing less than starting. That’s my goal and something I’ve worked for since I was a little kid.”
Fusco hadn’t played guard since high school, but the Vikings shifted him there last year. Fusco played in three games and impressed the coaching staff.
“I’m pretty comfortable with (guard),” Fusco said. “It’s my job to start this year at right guard. I’m going to have to be comfortable with it.”
Rookie receivers Greg Childs and Jarius Wright have been friends since they were in third grade. They’ve been teammates at every level, starting in grade school in Arkansas and continuing up the ladder to the University of Arkansas and now the Vikings.
The two of them, both fourth-round draft picks, made a point of telling coach Leslie Frazier something about their past. Something that Frazier, coming off a 3-13 season, was glad to hear.
“They reminded me, ‘Coach, we’ve always been winners, everywhere we went,’“ Frazier said. “I said, ‘Hallelujah! We’ll take that. Bring some of that with you.’“
Teams generally are nervous to start a rookie at safety. Well, the Vikings could be doubly anxious in 2012.
The team’s May 4-6 rookie minicamp may have forecast the team’s starting safety duo when former Notre Dame teammates Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton lined up side by side with the first unit.
Smith, a first-round pick, is virtually guaranteed of a starting spot by the opening game. Blanton, a fifth-round selection, is a longer shot, but can’t be ruled out because of the team’s weakness at the position.
“If you take a look at where we ended the season at the safety position, it’s open competition,” head coach Leslie Frazier said. “Those guys returning are good players. But we want to really have an open competition.”
Jamarca Sanford, a seventh-round pick in 2009, and Mistral Raymond, a sixth-rounder in 2011, finished last season as starters. Sanford will lose his job to Smith. Raymond and Blanton will compete for the other position.
In the Vikings’ scheme, the safeties are interchangeable. Raymond and Blanton both were drafted as cornerbacks, but are classic tweeners with good size and coverage skills.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I can say I’ve knocked some people out before. But, you know what, that’s part of the game.” – Vikings backup linebacker Solomon Elimimian, who was voted the CFL’s “hardest hitter” by a poll of his peers in each of the past two seasons.