Jasper Brinkley's durability 'definitely' a concern, Vikings GM says
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The Minnesota Vikings expect Jasper Brinkley to be ready for training camp, but they're concerned enough about their prospective middle linebacker's health to keep him in town for rehabilitation until players report to training camp on July 26.
Brinkley missed all of last season after undergoing hip surgery in late August. He was penciled into the starting lineup when the Vikings declined to re-sign veteran E.J. Henderson, then suffered a groin strain in practice on June 6 that apparently has yet to heal.
"There's some concern there, definitely, because of the durability," general manager Rick Spielman told 1500 ESPN on Sunday morning.
"I know what we saw when he came in as a rookie and when he came in and filled in for E.J. and the potential we saw there. He's a big banger, physical inside middle linebacker that probably doesn't get enough credit for his athletic skill set as well. ...
"But again, the durability is a question right now, just because he hasn't played in a year and hasn't played much at all hardly through this offseason."
Spielman said the Vikings "wanted to be conservative and make sure that (Brinkley) was ready to training camp," indicating the 26-year-old was held out of last week's mandatory minicamp as a precaution.
However, Brinkley only heightened concerns when he told reporters it was his surgically repaired hip, not the groin, that had him sidelined. Coach Leslie Frazier reiterated the Vikings' medical staff is treating a groin injury and Spielman confirmed that on Sunday.
"Just talking to our medical staff, there's no concerns about him not being ready to go by the time we get in training camp," Spielman said. "I know he'll be around for the next five weeks rehabbing, making sure he's ready to go.
"It's a big year for him as well, I know, because he's going into the last year of his contract. So, he wants -- he needs to get on the field."
A fifth-round pick (150th overall) in the 2009 draft out of South Carolina, Brinkley is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract, which included a $186,000 signing bonus. He's already missed out on escalators that could have more than quadrupled his $565,000 base salary in 2012.
Brinkley started the last four games of the 2009 season plus the playoffs after Henderson suffered a fractured femur in a December game at Arizona. He played in all 16 games again in 2010, mostly on special teams, and was in line to compete for the starting job at weakside linebacker last year until the hip acted up.
Practice-squad holdover Tyrone McKenzie took Brinkley's spot at middle linebacker during minicamp. Spielman also mentioned veteran Marvin Mitchell and rookie seventh-round Audie Cole as potential backup plans, although it's tough to judge anything until players put on pads in training camp.
"There's no question Jasper's slated in there, but there is some competition going on," Spielman said. "Jasper has to show that he can be on the field, and if not, like I said, we'll monitor where our young guys are, where some of our backups are and can they do it, and if not, we'll definitely have to explore the market outside."
Henderson, 31, remains a free agent.
• Spielman reiterated the Vikings have no interest in dealing WR Percy Harvin, who requested a trade during a spat with the team over undisclosed issues last week. "As far as I know and the last dialogue I had," Spielman said, "we're expecting Percy to be at training camp and get ready to go."