Still 'in the mix' at MLB, Michael Mauti starts working on outside too
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Michael Mauti sent hand-written letters to all 32 general managers in the NFL when he was a potential draftee recovering from his third ACL tear that ended his senior season as Penn State's middle linebacker.
Mauti, 24, finally had a healthy offseason entering his second year in the NFL and now he's taking another leap to bolster his stock.
"Mike's played all three positions during this training camp," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "Right now we're playing him at Will [weak-side] linebacker. He's played Mike [middle], he's played Sam [strong-side]. But as a backup linebacker, that's what we've talked about before, you've got to be able to play dual positions as we go into a game week."
Mauti has seen first-team reps as the weak-side linebacker during practice this week after primarily working in the middle with the second-team defense in camp. The Vikings also moved Audie Cole back into the middle of the second unit as they test out Mauti's range at the position.
"[Mauti] has got good quickness, good acceleration, he runs the perimeter really well," coach Mike Zimmer said. "Needs to be a little more composed before the play. He's hyper. He just needs to relax and play football."
He played all three positions for the Nittany Lions in college, most recently playing on the weak side as a junior. Though he's more than two years removed from committing to that spot, Mauti's carrying the same 'do whatever I can' mentality that helped get him drafted despite a trio of knee injuries.
"That'd be nice to [settle on one spot]," Mauti said. "Right now it's about where I can fit best in this scheme and where the coaches feel I can help out the most."
Mauti is about five pounds lighter than what he's listed (243lbs) on the roster, which has been a product of an offseason devoid of rehabilitation.
"I was a little lighter this year, because I've been running so much," he said.
The Vikings plan on starting linebacker Jasper Brinkley in the middle of the defense if they open in a base package against the Oakland Raiders in Friday's preseason opener. Cole will likely see second-team reps in the middle as the Vikings see what Mauti can do on the outside behind Chad Greenway.
However, Mauti is still 'in the mix' for the middle spot, per Edwards; and the leaner body has helped his cause.
"We're pleased with the coverage aspect," Edwards said. "Especially running to the perimeter to get to some of the crack tosses and stuff. You can really see him flash his speed. He's an aggressive kid."