EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Defensive end Brian Robison is the longest-tenured player on Minnesota's roster.
"Let's keep that on the down-low," quipped the 33-year-old after a media member noted his status because of the retirement of Chad Greenway and the departure of Adrian Peterson.
While he's not the oldest player on the team – that title belongs to cornerback Trae Waynes – Robison will be looked to as the sage of the defensive line room.
Robison and line mate Everson Griffen, along with seven other teammates, spoke with Twin Cities media members Tuesday. The second week of voluntary offseason workouts is underway at Winter Park, and both Robison and Griffen spoke about helping to lead the Vikings defense before and during the 2017 season.
In preparing for his 11th season in Purple, Robison said he's developed an intentional offseason routine.
"The old adage of 'work smarter, not harder' comes into play a little bit," Robison said. "It's a fine line between letting your body recover, but also not taking off too much time where you become out of shape. There's a thin line where you've kind of got to balance that aspect of life of making sure that you get the most recovery you possibly can so you can work at the optimum level."
Griffen echoed Robison's thoughts, saying each year requires him to evolve his way of thinking.
According to the eighth-year defensive end, football is mostly mental.
"You have to grind hard, but you have to grind smart," Griffen said. "The biggest thing now is just coming out here, happy to be back with the fellas – laugh, have some good giggles, talk about the offseason, and try to get everything back in order.
"I'm here to put my hand in the dirt and rush the passer, stop the run," Griffen later added. "The only thing I can do is go out there and help my team win by giving my best effort each and every day, by being the captain that I've been for the past few years and leading the d-line and trying to lead my team into a better season."
Griffen said it's crucial to make sure that he and his defensive teammates are on the same page as they train, even at this point in the offseason. He explained that it's "all about the foundation," and that it includes film study, self-criticism and preparing for the upcoming organized team activity practices that will kick off on May 22.
Both Griffen and Robison said there are specific improvements that need to be made in 2017.
"The margin for error is very small," Griffen said. "We have to get off blocks quicker as a d-line; we have to go out there and hit them, and we have to swarm to the ball, and we have to eliminate some explosive plays and help the offense out even more by giving them shorter field position, stopping them down there and doing our job."
Robison said the team's mentality is one of toughness, and it is the mindset he's become familiar with during his time in Minnesota.
"It's kind of what we've always done, which is [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's] attitude of coming out here and working harder than the rest of the teams," Robison said. "That's been the vibe right now. We're making sure we're putting our best foot forward to give ourselves the best opportunity to be successful."
Jones on Joining Vikings D-Line Room
As Robison and Griffen focus both on improving their own game and on leading their position group during the 2017 season, Datone Jones is just starting to become acclimated with his new teammates in the defensive line room.
It's a group that Jones, whom the Vikings signed as a free agent, is excited to join.
"[The] guys are very competitive," said Jones, who played defensive line and at linebacker in four seasons with the Packers. "We've got a couple Pro Bowl guys in our room. Danielle Hunter, he should have been a Pro Bowler last year."
Jones specifically expressed gratitude to Linval Joseph, who's taken Jones under his wing in the two-and-a-half weeks since the younger tackle met him.
"He's a mountain. He's a very explosive guy," Jones said of Joseph. "From day one, [he's been] making me feel more comfortable. Little things like sitting in the team room and saying, 'Hey, Datone, come sit right here. Come sit right next to me.'
"[Linval is] a guy that pushes everybody on the field," Jones added. "He's not scared to compete with the smallest guy on the defensive line when we're doing agilities and running. He's a competitor, and you can just tell he wants to be great.
Jones said the second week of voluntary offseason workouts is going well, and he's hyped by all of the energy around the building.
"Guys are getting after it in the weight room," Jones said. "Coach Zimmer's mentality to the team, he has that touch that he's not going to take any crap, and he only wants the best for the guys. He only wants guys to win and compete hard."
As Jones continues to work out with and build a rapport with the Vikings defense, he wants to be perceived as more than just the new kid on the block.
"I'm coming from Green Bay and I'm a new guy here, but at the same time, I'm here and I'm going to compete hard and challenge not only myself but my teammates every day," Jones said. "I'm a guy who smiles a lot, but I'm a guy who works really hard. I'm a guy who loves to win, and I'm a guy who doesn't take anything else but winning."
Raising the Barr
In the wake of Greenway's retirement, Anthony Barr feels a responsibility to step up and take a larger leadership role on the defense in 2017.
Barr said he plans to be a "little more vocal" in the locker room and on the practice field in addition to leading by example.
"Just try to do the right thing," Barr explained. "And help the guys along the way – whatever they need, I'm more than willing to do that."
The 2017 season held ups and downs for the team as a whole and specifically for Barr, who said he created a "long list" of items to focus on personally in order to be the best player he can be in his fourth NFL season.
Barr said he's spent significant time this offseason reflecting on personal goals.
"I have a lot to work on, for sure," Barr said. "A lot of ups and downs, but I'll always be better for it. I don't see myself going through those times again – I'm working very hard with both my coaches and my teammates."
Added Barr: "I'm in a better place mentally and physically, and I'm just looking forward to getting back out there."