With the Minnesota Vikings announcing that they have added a year to Defensive End Brian Robison’s contract, it guarantee’s that the gentle giant from Texas will have started and finished his entire career in Minnesota. While this was a common occurrence prior to the introduction of Free Agency in 1989 (“Plan B” at first, then full free agency in 1992), it is very rare these days for NFL stars and quality starters play their entire career in one city.
He was a great Green Bay Packer, but Brett Favre played out the string for the Jets and Vikings. Marcus Allen was an unforgettable Raider, who finished a Kansas City Chief. Many other NFL greats would follow suit – Randall McDaniel (Vikings) finished in Tampa Bay, John Randle (Vikings) would play a few final seasons in Seattle, Ryan Longwell (Packers) would wrap-up a career in Minnesota, and the list is endless.
But, like Chad Greenway, who retired a few weeks ago as a Viking, Brian stayed loyal to Minnesota, and, in the end, Minnesota stayed loyal to Brian.
So, what was so special about Brian Robison that allowed him to remain in one spot during his 10 NFL seasons (and two more to come)? It is a very poorly kept secret in NFL coaching and GM circles that Brian Robison was a valuable commodity the last few times his contract was expiring, and the Vikings knew the talent they had in Robison and quickly extended him, rather than letting him test the market.
But Robison showed loyalty too. A pass-rushing specialist who had 28 sacks in 3 years at Splendora High School, and 41 tackles for loss at the University of Texas, Brian never complained about playing on the left side of the line in the NFL, where sacks are very difficult to come by when right-handed quarterbacks can see you coming.
As a result, Brian seemed to play second-fiddle to All-Pro Jared Allen who arrived in 2008, but it was the splashy Allen who left via Free Agency in 2014, and Robison who was again retained to man the left side in Minnesota.
Certainly teams nearer to Robison’s Texas offseason home, like Dallas and Houston, or even New Orleans, could use the talent of number 96. Yet, Brian preferred being in Minnesota, and liked the attitude of his head coach.
“He’s a straight-shooter”, says Robison of head coach Zimmer, and Brian believed the prior Viking defenses lacked the disciplined and aggressive nature that Zimmer brought. This was never more evident that when Zimmer held his first mini-camp practice upon his arrival in 2014, and Robison said, “I’m actually looking forward to getting yelled at a little bit by him (Zimmer)”.
But, the respect for Zimmer was never more evident than when the coach was on the sidelines in Jacksonville this past season to coach the team versus the Jaguars, even after the head coach had just had his fourth major eye surgery of the year. Robison said, “he did exactly what he expects of the rest of his players. He’s expects us to be tough, and he is just as tough.”
But, it is more than toughness that Robison enjoys about Zimmer. Ever since Zimmer arrived in Minnesota, there had been rumors of using the athletic Robison at his more natural standup-DE/LB position he often played in college. But, the limitations and depth of the Viking defensive line, did not allow Zimmer to try Robison in a role that would make him a bigger playmaker until this past season.
In training camp, Robison has always been like another coach on the field, helping the all the defensive linemen with their techniques to get better, never worrying whether the tricks-of-the-trade he shares will help the younger players challenge for his starting position, he just wants to win. But this past training camp, Robison was constantly on the field during intrasquad scrimmage time, listening to advice from Zimmer on how to play the standup position in his defense.
Constantly absorbing, that one-on-one coaching from Zimmer paid-off, as at age 33, Robison had resurgence in his career, registering 7.5 sacks. While most of those sacks came from his familiar left Defensive End position, Robison was much harder for offensive linemen to account for, because he was constantly moving around on the line or in his standup blitzing position.
With all his success, and even though Robison knows he’s still effective, the candle is burning lower on his NFL career. Although he had a great year in 2016, Robison acknowledged that the torch may soon pass, when he was quoted after the season finale with the Bears as saying “Danielle (Hunter) has done a good job this year, and deserves a chance to start”.
But, don’t misread that quote – Brian Robison isn’t done yet. With 10 seasons under his belt, Robison has registered 56 sacks, 8 fumble recoveries and a highlight reel touchdown in Chicago a few seasons ago. He has goals still, and the biggest of which is getting that elusive Super Bowl ring for the fans of Minnesota, and for him and his teammates. He believes his best chance is with his Vikings.
So, Brian settles in for two more Minnesota winters, delaying his return to the warmer climate for a retirement likely filled in pursuit of big bass on the lakes of Texas.
“It’s awesome. It doesn’t happen very often in today’s NFL business where a player can be drafted and stay with the same team for his entire career. We’ve seen Chad and Brian who will eventually doing it. That also tells you a lot about the character and loyalty of those 2 guys and the makeup of the Minnesota Vikings. To me it shows how the organization feels about those 2 and how they feel about the organization. I’m very proud to have been a part of it and I know Brian is too. I want to thank the fans , because without their support none of this would have been possible. Thank you all!” says Brian’s Dad, Jimmy Robison.
In all, Brian Robison is a team player, a model of consistency, and a role-model for the community and his teammates. A man with a tremendous sense of humor, as seen in his 96 questions interview series, no opposing team offense in the NFL is laughing at his return.
Brian Robison may be Minnesota Nice off the field, but he is nothing but Texas Nasty on the field.
So, pack a few extra aspirin Aaron Rodgers, order extra ice Matthew Stafford, and get some smelling salts prepared Dak Prescott, because a freight train wearing number 96 will meet you in a backfield near your town for the next two seasons, and maybe in the playoffs.