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Updated: August 19th, 2012 6:55pm
Notebook: Vikings' Jasper Brinkley says eyes, feet still coming around

Notebook: Vikings' Jasper Brinkley says eyes, feet still coming around

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley acknowledges his game is still coming back, but he feels he'll be where he needs to be in the Minnesota Vikings' opener on Sept. 9.

"I've been away from the game for a year, and each preseason game, I take it and go with it, because I know it is a learning experience for me," Brinkley said after the Vikings' practice on Sunday afternoon.

"... I have to train my eyes again and my footwork. That's the first thing you lose when you're away from the game for a year -- eyes and footwork -- and each and every week, we play a preseason game, and all that stuff's starting to come back fast."

Brinkley missed all of last season following hip surgery, then suffered a groin strain that sidelined him for much of the offseason.

The Vikings played him throughout the first half of Friday's second exhibition against Buffalo in hopes of helping him regain his confidence and timing.

"I thought he made tremendous leaps from the week before in game action against San Francisco in what he did against Buffalo," coach Leslie Frazier said. "You could see him begin to get his legs back under him. You could see the quickness and the burst that we've been wanting to see."

The plan is to get Brinkley a lot of work again in the third preseason game on Friday against San Diego. He said he's getting extra work after practice and in the meeting rooms, too, now that the Vikings have broken camp and returned to their headquarters.

Entering a contract year at age 27, Brinkley said he'll be ready for the opener "without a doubt" and suggested his issues at this point are more mental than physical.

"My assessment is it all boils down to my eyes," Brinkley said. "If I'm messing up, then it's definitely I don't have my eyes in the right place.

"Last week (was a) whole lot better -- light years better from Week 1. That's the thing I'm optimistic about (is being) ready for the first game."

Frazier has stopped short of declaring Brinkley the starter in the base defense, though, and Erin Henderson already is taking all the snaps at mike linebacker when the Vikings play nickel.

Marvin Mitchell got time in Henderson's place with the base defense in Friday's game, too, and Frazier "(t)he door's not closed" on Mitchell finding a way into the lineup.

"We still have another big ball game this week where starters are going to play a lot, and we're still evaluating those positions so the door's not closed," Frazier said. "(Mitchell) has an opportunity to compete. We don't want to shut the door yet and just let those continue to battle."

Standing pat

The Vikings liked what they saw from their starting safeties against the Bills enough that they'll roll with rookie Harrison Smith and Mistral Raymond again this week.

"Yeah, that's the approach we're going to take," Frazier said. "I think (Raymond) did a good job in that ballgame on Friday night, and we want to look at that tandem again and see how they progress."

Smith, the first-round draft pick (No. 29 overall) from Notre Dame, always has been viewed as a likely starter. Raymond has been competing with Jamarca Sanford, who started 15 games last season but continues to struggle with angles and coverage.

"We'll still work Jamarca in there," Frazier said, "but as we speak, just go with those two to begin with."

Another rookie moving up?

Third-round pick Josh Robinson has made enough plays since returning from a hamstring injury he could get a longer look with the first-team defense this week, too.

Making his preseason NFL debut, Robinson entered Friday's game at right cornerback in the second quarter and ended consecutive Bills drives -- breaking up a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass for Derek Hagan on third-and-15 and later tackling Hagan short of the sticks on fourth-and-3.

Robinson also made a hit on Bills receiver Donald Jones, who was stripped by Chris Cook on the play. With Cook sitting out Sunday's practice because of concussion symptoms, Robinson was the third cornerback in the nickel package during the walkthrough along with veterans Antoine Winfield and Chris Carr.

"That was a heck of a hit by Josh," Frazier said. "It was good to see a guy playing corner for us, attack the way he did. They tried him on a deep ball and you could see his recovery speed.

"He's showing some things, but he has to get his conditioning back, and he'd be the first to tell you that with all the time he's lost. But he's showing some things, so we have to keep him out there and keep giving him a chance to grow."

Split end questions

Jerome Simpson will play in Friday's game, Frazier said, but he may not start and his snaps may be limited as the Vikings examine their options at split end during Simpson's three-game suspension to start the season.

Michael Jenkins has been the third receiver in the Vikings' three-wide sets, mostly playing flanker when Percy Harvin moves into the slot. The second-string split end remains Devin Aromashodu, who has no catches in nine preseason targets.

That might be less concerning if not for the fact Aromashodu caught only 26 of 78 balls (33.3%) thrown his way last season -- the lowest percentage of any NFL receiver who played at least one-third of his team's offensive snaps.

"What happened on Friday night isn't all his issue," Frazier said. "He's doing everything we ask him to do, we just have to keep the ball in play and give him a chance to make a play on the ball. But he's trying to get that part of his game where we want it, and it's encouraging to see, because we think he has the ability to make those hard and contested catches."

Jenkins had a 35-yard catch against the Bills. Emmanuel Arceneaux had two for 50 yards, including a 48-yard reception late, but he's been working mostly with the third string.

"It was good to see (Arceneaux) step up and make that big play that he made," Frazier said. "We've been talking about him and how we can give him more opportunities in this next game or maybe for sure in that final game, but we want to make sure we're taking a real hard look at where he is and where he might fit in to what we're trying to accomplish."

Quick hits

• The New Orleans Saints signed former Vikings WR Greg Camarillo to a one-year deal.

• Riki Ellison, father of Vikings TE Rhett Ellison, attended Sunday's practice.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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