Brinkley preparing as starter

Jasper Brinkley (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)

E.J. Henderson is hoping to be ready for the regular season, but backup Jasper Brinkley is preparing to start just in case.

E.J. Henderson has expressed optimism that he will be back on the field when the Vikings open training camp in less than three weeks in Mankato.

The reality, however, is that Henderson will have to be cleared by the Vikings' medical staff before he is allowed to return after suffering a broken femur in his left leg last December.

That means that Jasper Brinkley will be Minnesota's starting middle linebacker until Henderson is given the green light, and there is a chance Brinkley could be the starter on Sept. 9 when the Vikings open the regular season at New Orleans.

Following the Vikings' minicamp this month, Brinkley said he is "definitely" preparing as if he will be the starter because "you never know what is going to happen."

A fifth-round pick out of South Carolina in 2009, Brinkley started the final four regular-season games of his rookie season and then played in both postseason contests after Henderson was injured in a game at Arizona.

That provided Brinkley with invaluable on-the-job training and plenty of opportunities to learn from what he did right and wrong.

"I definitely feel like I came a long way," he said. "Last year was a whole lot of learning for me. I call it teach tape. So definitely got in here this offseason and critiqued myself really hard because you're your (own) worst critic. So (there were) a lot of things I wanted to work on and I came out here and got better (during minicamp)."

Brinkley, who is 6-1 and around 255 pounds, is effective against the run because he is such a big hitter. The issue in his game is going against the pass.

Brinkley did not play in nickel situations last year so he was not consistently exposed to the pass, but when he was on the field in those types of situations there were some issues with his ability to drop back into coverage as the middle linebacker in the Tampa-2 is required to do.

Brinkley said he has looked to improve in that area by working on his hip movements and also credited Henderson with helping him.

"It's all about shifting your hips off the quarterback's eyes and being able to break down on the check downs sometimes," he said. "Just being able to read the route combination and knowing what route is coming by different splits."

NOTES

  • The Vikings are having extensive work done on their practice fields at Winter Park. New sod is being put down on both fields and new Turfguard sensors will be installed in the fields.

  • Although the NFL has announced that commissioner Roger Goodell will visit various training camps this summer with John Madden on the "Madden Cruiser," a league spokesman said exact details have not been completed and it's too early to say if Goodell will visit the Vikings in Mankato, Minn.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's nothing (contract) related at all. Coach (Brad) Childress gave me some time off for the minicamp, and that's really all that matters." — Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway explaining to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that his failure to take part in the Vikings minicamp had nothing to do with his contract situation. Greenway is due to make just more than $3 million this season in the last year of his rookie deal.
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