EAGAN, Minn. – Sheldon Richardson will play whatever position you want him to.
Richardson, who will turn 31 Monday, re-joined the Vikings this offseason as a 3-technique mainly to be used in a situational role.
After being a starter for the first eight seasons of his NFL career, Richardson has had to adjust to – but has embraced – a new responsibility within Minnesota's defense. The Vikings defensive line has been shorthanded, though, which has meant another new-look role for Richardson.
Richardson played 34 defensive snaps against the Packers Sunday, 27 of which were at defensive end. He totaled two tackles, one quarterback hit and five quarterback pressures in the Vikings 34-31 win.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer acknowledged that sliding Richardson to the outside was "out of need" but also spoke highly of him answering the bell.
"We're kind of thin at that position right now," Zimmer said. "But Sheldon did a good job of learning what he had to do in a week. He's got a little different kind of rush. He's a bigger-body guy that can get on these tackles a little bit bigger than some of these ends that we have.
"I thought he did some good things, and we'll probably have to keep using him there," Zimmer added.
The move from defensive tackle out to end is generally a little easier than vice versa, Zimmer noted, because "things happen a little slower" on the edge.
"He did a good job. He had a lot of plays, had a couple good rushes in there," Zimmer said. "On the defensive line, we're thin. We've got to just try manufacture however we can."
Richardson spoke to Twin Cities media members Wednesday and said he'd practiced "a little bit" at defensive end during the week leading up to the Border Battle. But his familiarity with Minnesota's defensive scheme, having also spent the 2018 campaign in Purple, is helpful in what he's being asked to do.
"I've been playing football for a long time, going back to my high school days," Richardson said. "I feel like I knew the schemes around here, pretty much knew the playbook already coming in. Just had to get ready for the trigger words I'm not used to hearing, going from 3-technique to D-end.
"Just knowing football, and knowing the scheme, and knowing Zim's system, it's kinda easy to play in," he added.
Richardson credited Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator, who also remains the team's defensive line coach, with making sure each player in the position group is prepared to play where – and when – he's needed.
Conversely, Patterson pointed out the qualities that make Richardson a versatile player in the trenches.
"Even though he's a big man, he's athletic enough to go out on the edge and not feel out of place. I thought he did a tremendous job last Sunday," Patterson said. "That tackle was having a hard time with him working speed-to-power. He's a 300-pound guy that was running and coming back downhill on him, so for some big guys, it's hard to be out there in space like that, but Sheldon was comfortable doing that.
"The difference for him is the brute power and force that he can come with – using him out on the edge and gaining momentum as he makes contact with the guy to his advantage," Patterson later added. "Whereas, when we're inside, it happens a lot faster, so he was able to use his size, strength and speed to his advantage on his pass rush last week."
The Vikings continue to be undermanned at defensive end, as Everson Griffen dealing with a personal situation earlier this week. Kenny Willekes was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list last week but did not play against the Packers, and it remains uncertain if he'll be back for Sunday afternoon's game at San Francisco.
Minnesota did recently bring back defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, and the team signed former Viking Tashawn Bower off the Patriots practice squad Wednesday.
The Vikings also are wanting for depth at defensive tackle, though. Michael Pierce remains on Injured Reserve, and Dalvin Tomlinson this week was added to the Reserve-COVID-19 list.
Patterson fully expects to utilize Richardson in multiple ways against the 49ers.
"He's going to play every place. He's going to play inside, he's going to play outside. We've just got to see how the combinations work this week in practice and what happens with Kenny and all of those other kinds of things," Patterson said. "But [Sheldon has] proven he can go out there and play on the edge and give us a chance to be successful and win. He played both spots on Sunday. … I kind of see that happening again [this] Sunday."
That plan is A-OK by Richardson.
"They'll put me in position to make plays, and I gotta make them," he said.