Brian Robison is careful to notice things that he rarely – if ever – focused on as a young pup entering the NFL 10 years ago.
Since the Vikings drafted Robison 102nd overall in 2007, the defensive end has progressively and intentionally become more aware of a number of things: starting the past 65 consecutive games; conversations – whether serious or far from it – he has with his teammates; the fan appreciation and interaction he's gained through weekly segments of *96 Questions with B-Rob. *
And he's grateful that he's done it all in Purple.
"On an everyday basis, just coming in the building, letting the guys know that you're with the guys you want to be with," Robison said in May as he started Organized Team Activity practices. "That time is ticking away, and for you, you have to go in with the understanding that you don't have a lot of shots left.
"And with the shots that you get, the opportunities that you get, you've got the make the best of them," Robison added. "Definitely, every day, I don't take anything for granted."
But while Robison has mentally slowed down to smell the proverbial roses, he's entering his 11th season having lost hardly a step on the field.
Minnesota's defensive line has been anchored by Robison since he took over the full-time starting role in 2011. And as his responsibility has been slightly modified under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who took the helm in 2014, Robison's dedication and defensive prowess have not.
Under Zimmer, Robison has embraced a more versatile role in which he occasionally is asked to slide inside to defensive tackle from his longtime end position. Whereas he once grew accustomed to playing a majority of the defensive snaps, Robison in the past two seasons has functioned more rotationally, often sharing snaps with up-and-comer Danielle Hunter.
Zimmer said that Robison has accepted the transition "probably as good as [anyone] I have been around."
"He said he would do anything he could to help this football team," Zimmer said of Robison. "I think he understands that Danielle is a very talented guy. He did something in the defensive meeting room that was pretty stand up-ish … He did things the correct way, like a true professional."
Robison has graciously moved over for the sake of building an even more dynamic defensive line. He hasn't, however, taken a back seat.
"There's a guy who really has bought in systematically to what we're asking him to do," said Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards. "Very rarely are you going to see him make any mental errors, so his preparation is good."
Edwards said his level of respect for Robison and his "very unselfish" attitude is immense.
"[He's] willing to do whatever it takes to help us go win a football game, and he really wears a lot of different hats," Edwards said. "I mean, this guy drops into coverage, you can see him rushing inside, rushing outside, standing up, moving around."
Over his Vikings career, Robison has recorded 296 total tackles (coaches' tally), 56 sacks and 17 passes defensed.
Robison in 2016 tallied 28 tackles, 7.5 sacks, a pass defensed and three forced fumbles.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, entering his third season, noted that Robison's demeanor off the field is not an accurate indication of his on-field character.
"Brian Robison is a funny guy, but when he's on the field, there's nothing funny about it," Kendricks said. "He's a great pass rusher and created a spark for our defense last year in numerous games. It's good to watch him on film."
As Robison prepares for the 2017 season, his mentality has changed in more ways than one. He explained that after 10 years of working to stay in shape and on track for each season, he's now adopted the "work smarter, not harder" approach.
"As you get older, your body breaks down and doesn't recover as well," Robison said. "I think there's a fine line between working too hard and not working hard enough, and you have to find that fine line, and you have to make sure that you do the things you have to do in order to recover and be able to do it day-in and day-out."
Whether he runs out of the tunnel of U.S. Bank Stadium as a starter this season or plays instead a significant reserve role, Robison is confident there's nowhere he'd rather be for the day-in and day-out of the gridiron.
"This is the place that I want to spend my whole career in," Robison said of Minnesota. "It's a place that my family has enjoyed over the past 10 years, and it really has become a second home for us."
Added Robison: "The fans are amazing, they always come out to support us no matter what's going on, and so for me, it's an easy decision to know that this is where I want to be."