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Updated: May 30th, 2012 10:01pm
Notebook: Jasper Brinkley confident he can be man in the middle

Notebook: Jasper Brinkley confident he can be man in the middle

by Judd Zulgad and Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Jasper Brinkley did not play in a game last season after undergoing hip surgery during training camp. This season, however, Brinkley is poised to take over as the Minnesota Vikings' starting middle linebacker with veteran free-agent E.J. Henderson apparently no longer in the team's plans.

"I'm definitely equipped," for the job, said Brinkley, a fifth-round choice of the Vikings in 2009. "That's what they brought me in here for. Ultimately they're giving me that opportunity. I've got the job, but it's my job to keep it."

The question is how Brinkley adjusts to playing in the middle in the Tampa-2 scheme that will be run by new defensive coordinator Alan Williams?

The Vikings have run the Tampa-2 for several seasons but Williams will add a few tweaks. Brinkley started four games late in the 2009 season after replacing Henderson when he broke his leg in early December against the Arizona Cardinals.

While Brinkley got the job done, there was some concern about how well the hard-hitting linebacker dropped into coverage. That's a key responsibility for the middle linebacker in this defense. Brinkley knows he needs to improve in this area and has been trying to address it.

"You go into the offseason always knowing you want to work on the thing that you want to get better at," he said. "For me, that's dropping into my zone and getting better at the zone, because we are a Tampa-2 team. So you have to be able to run down the middle of the field as a middle linebacker. That's one of the things I did clean up this offseason. I'm ready to put it all on the field and put it on tape."

As for the progress Brinkley has made in his return from the surgery, coach Leslie Frazier said that while he is getting there mentally there remain some areas where he's holding back."

"I was talking to him about that this morning," Frazier said. "He's got to get to the point where he can let it go a little bit. We're still early. We've only had two practices and we'll see how he progresses over the next few workouts that we'll have. We'll need him to let it go at some point, but he still has some things mentally that he has to get past."

Confidence in Gerhart

With Adrian Peterson recovering from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee, there is a chance that Toby Gerhart will be the Vikings' top running back to open the 2012 regular season.

Frazier is confident in Gerhart's ability to handle that job, if Peterson isn't ready to go."

"Watching Toby at the end of last season, prior to his (knee) injury, really gives you some confidence that if for some reason Adrian is not ready to go in Week 1, we have a really solid back at that position," Frazier said. "Toby did a great job in Adrian's absence. We're not shaking in our boots afraid if Toby has to start for us (in Week 1) against Jacksonville."

"We know he's more than capable, we just have to make sure we have some quality depth at that position. But we're all optimistic that Adrian is going to make it back."

Gerhart, the Vikings' second-round pick in 2010, suffered a torn MCL in the team's 2011 season finale but the injury did not require surgery.

On the same page

The Vikings' decision to release veteran Ryan Longwell and keep sixth-round pick Blair Walsh as their only kicker would seem to be another indication the team is in a rebuilding mode.

That might not be the best news for Frazier, considering he is entering the second-year of a three-year contract and his team won only three games in 2011. Frazier, though, said Wednesday that he and general manager Rick Spielman are on the same page.

"The thing you have to understand when we're building a team, it's we, it's not Rick," Frazier said. "Rick could not build this team without the head coach being in concert with him on doing that. That wouldn't be good for he or I. There isn't a decision that's made that the two of us don't talk about and agree upon."

The decisions that have been made, they were decisions that were discussed and we were in agreement that this was the right thing to do. It's hard to build a team if the general manager and the head coach aren't on the same page and we are. Thank goodness."

Harvin, Childs sit out

On top of the absence of Jared Allen and Chad Greenway -- both of whom were not at Winter Park Wednesday -- center John Sullivan, receivers Percy Harvin and Greg Childs and rookie running back Derrick Coleman also sat out practice.

Though not in pads, Harvin and Childs were both seen on the sidelines working out with team trainers.

Frazier did not address the reason for Childs' exclusion from practice, but it could be the result of a flare up from the patellar tendon injury that ended his junior season with the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2011. Childs, who was drafted by the Vikings in with their fourth round, participated in the team's rookie mini-camp in early May, where he told reporters that health-wise he was back to 100 percent.

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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