The Vikings hosted free agent linebacker Desmond Bishop for a visit and workout Wednesday morning and he remains a possibility for the Vikings to add to their roster as a potential starting middle linebacker.
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said after Wednesday’s minicamp practice that Bishop’s workout went well.
“Good workout and we’ll see. (We’re) doing our due diligence in terms of bringing guys in that are free agents,” Williams said. “The neat thing is that I don’t have to make those decisions. I just have to coach them once they get here. So Coach Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman, they are the ones that make those hard decisions.”
They may have to make that decision quickly, as Bishop reportedly has visits scheduled with the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars in the coming days. The Vikings are usually aggressive about signing a free agent coming in for a visit if they want him, so a signing could come at any time.
Bishop was released on Monday by the Green Bay Packers and the Vikings showed immediate interest.
Health could be the biggest factor. Bishop missed the entire 2012 season with a significant hamstring injury. He told reporters in Green Bay that he was 100 percent healthy this offseason, but he also didn’t participate in any of the Packers’ organized team activities or their minicamp last week, the last on-field activities for them until training camp in late July.
Williams said the transition from a 3-4 defensive scheme, like the Packers employ, to a 4-3, like the Vikings run, shouldn’t be an issue for a veteran linebacker.
“It’s not rocket science. It’s football. It’s still about running to the ball, tackling and reading your keys and making plays when the ball comes to you,” Williams said.
The Vikings will have their third new starter in three years at middle linebacker. E.J. Henderson was the starter there in 2011 before his career ended. Last year, Jasper Brinkley was the starter, but he signed a two-year free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals in March.
Erin Henderson, E.J.’s younger brother, has been making the transition from weakside linebacker to the middle during OTAs and minicamp, which would leave an opening on the weak side if he is the new starter in the middle and Bishop isn’t signed.
No matter who that player ends up being, Williams knows the qualities he is looking for in a weakside linebacker.
“A guy that’s going to be physical on the lead block. A guy that can drop into pass coverage on two deeps and three deeps. Overall, a steady football player,” Williams said.
Bishop has started two seasons as an inside linebacker in the Packers’ 3-4 defense and was their leading tackler in 2011, despite playing only 13 games, but Williams said he wasn’t sure if Bishop would play outside or inside if the Vikings sign him.
“I’m not sure. I haven’t seen enough tape on him to know,” Williams said. “That would be Coach Frazier and Rick Spielman – they would answer that better than I could. From what I hear, he’s a good football player.”
So far, Marvin Mitchell, who has started three games in his six-year NFL career, has been working as the weakside linebacker with the first-team defense in practices. Fourth-round draft pick Gerald Hodges could also be a factor there.
Williams also said he would be fine with the current corps of linebackers he has if there are no additions.
“We have a good linebacker corps. We have a great mix of veterans and young guys that we’ve infused into the group. They seem to be coming along fine. … I feel great about them.”
Said he is interested to see Hodges hit and run when the pads go on.
Several Vikings continued to sit out practice because of injuries, including CB Jacob Lacey (thumb), TE Rhett Ellison (unknown), S Mistral Raymond (unknown), LB Chad Greenway (knee), LB Nathan Williams (ankle), C John Sullivan (knee), DE Jared Allen (knee) and WR Greg Childs (knees). Childs did some individual work on Tuesday but didn’t practice at all Wednesday. LB Michael Mauti (knee) continued to work his way into some individual drills.
RB Adrian Peterson also sat out practice, but it’s unclear if he is being rested because of his sports hernia surgery earlier this offseason or for other reasons.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said he felt “very strongly” he needed to upgrade the punter position after the 2012 season, mostly from a consistency standpoint. The Vikings drafted Jeff Locke in the fifth round and released veteran Chris Kluwe, and Priefer has been impressed with Locke’s work ethic so far.
“I knew he would be a hard worker, but I didn’t know it would be to this extent,” Priefer said.
Priefer declined to get into details about what all went into his decision to move on from Kluwe, saying, “I just felt like we needed to make a change there.”
First-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson continues to return some kickoffs, giving Priefer a reason to celebrate that selection.
“I pulled a hamstring running down the hallway,” Priefer joked when asked for his reaction to drafting Patterson, a wide receiver. Priefer said he was surprised and happy the Vikings moved back into the first round to select Patterson, making him their third first-round pick in April.
Also taking turns returning kicks were Jarius Wright, Joe Webb, Josh Robinson, Stephen Burton and A.J. Jefferson.
Christian Ponder had one of the best practices open to the media this offseason. He connected with Jerome Simpson on an 80-yard touchdown for the play of the day.
CB Xavier Rhodes had another strong showing, knocking down several passes, but he also picked up a holding call on one play.
CB Bobby Felder had an interception of a Ponder pass intended for WR Greg Jennings.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.