EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings pass rushers have received a hands-on approach to learning technique from retired Cowboy (and Raider) Greg Ellis.
The hands of Ellis, who averaged 7.0 sacks a season over the course of his 12 years in the NFL, are more than capable.
Terence Newman, a former teammate of Ellis in Dallas who joined the Vikings as a free agent this offseason, said Ellis was "always" working on his hand technique and was "one of the best guys at using his hands."
"He could probably be a black belt in karate in a month if he really wanted to," Newman said. "He's a good athlete, too, and probably one of the best students of the game. I've actually learned a lot from him. His attention to detail helped me in my film study."
Ellis was invited by Head Coach Mike Zimmer to come to Winter Park this week. The 1998 first-round draft pick played with Zimmer as his defensive coordinator in Dallas from 2000-06 and with Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson in charge of his position group from 2000-02. Ellis also previously knew Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards, who coached Cowboys linebackers (1998-2001).
"(Zimmer and Patterson) taught me a whole lot about football and both of them had a large part to do with what allowed me to be a successful football player," Ellis said. "I just took some of the things that they told me and instilled in me and worked to perfect my craft as a pass rusher and it landed me a good NFL career, so I try to bring that to these guys.
"I speak a lot about Zim', Andre and Coach Edwards and the role that they played in my life and in becoming a good NFL player," Ellis continued. "I want to kind of validate to (current players), 'Hey, your head coach knows what he's talking about. He's been there. He helped me become who I am, and Andre, he's been there. He knows what he's talking about. He helped me become who I am as well.' "
Newman greeted Ellis with a smile and handshake on the practice field Monday. Seeing the fellow first-round pick by Dallas brought back a memory of when Newman impersonated Ellis.
"I remember we were playing Philadelphia (in 2005) and I was playing nickel and going on a blitz," Newman said. "Greg was probably one of the best guys I've seen at rushing the passer when I came (into the league), so for some reason, I got down in a 3-point (stance) like I was Greg Ellis, right next to him and remember him looking at me like, 'What are you doing?'
"I actually rushed the quarterback and sacked Donovan McNabb," Newman continued. "It was just funny, the only reason I got down was because I was next to Greg, so I thought, 'I'm going to do it like Greg does because it always works for him."
Ellis said becoming a "technician in the pass rush" allowed him to extend the length of his career.
"With all the knowledge that I was blessed to gather, I take advantage of the opportunity when people like Zim' want me to come out and share it with younger football players," Ellis said. "The NFL is a young man's game. To become an old guy, you have to figure out certain skill levels that will allow you to become an old NFL player because if not, you're going to be constantly replaced by younger football players."
Ellis visited the Bengals when Zimmer was defensive coordinator in Cincinnati and joined Patterson and Vikings assistant defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez this week to pass along a couple of drills and work with Everson Griffen and Brian Robison to enhance their techniques after practices.
"I believe in taking some of the stuff that these guys already do and showing them how to make that work on a consistent basis," Ellis said. "I don't come into any of these camps and try to re-invent a guy. Rick and his staff drafted a player and got what they want, so my job is to take, 'This is your strength, what you do pretty well now,' and the times that that doesn't work, let's figure out why and make it work pretty much 90 percent of the time."
Ellis said he sees past success and a lot of potential among Vikings pass rushers. Robison has 43.5 career sacks at the onset of his ninth season. Griffen had 12 sacks in 2014, setting a career high in his first season as a starter.
"B-Rob has been doing it for a while. He's had a good career and we want to get him a couple more years at this thing, too," Ellis said. "These guys have what it takes. They possess the ability to do it, so now, it's getting them to see and believe that you can do it and do it on a consistent basis. That's what this game is about. It's not about you did it last week. It's about can you do it on a consistent basis, and those that can do it on a consistent basis are the ones that have the 12 and 15-year careers, and the ones that can't, those have the three, four and five-year careers.
"They have the tangible things that are required for a pass rusher to get the job done," Ellis added. "I just want to bring out the stuff they already have in them and let them know they can do it every single play. You're not going to get a sack every play, but you can be in position to win those one-on-ones on every play."
Sharrif Floyd, who doled out some tips* *to rookie B.J. DuBose after practice Monday a few feet from where Ellis worked with Robison and Griffen, said he enjoyed learning from Ellis in person.
"Greg Ellis, one of the greats," Floyd said. "We watched a little bit of his film, and it was kind of awesome. A great guy. I love watching him play and am going to look at some more tape on him as well."
Ellis is on to a different kind of game tape. He's involved in the post production of Carter High and plays a sportscaster in the movie that is starring Vivica A. Fox and Charles S. Dutton. The movie focuses on the story of the Dallas-based school that defeated the 1988 Permian team that was featured in Friday Night Lights.
Click here* *to see the trailer of Carter High or watch in the video below: