EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Jasper Brinkley and Captain Munnerlyn were teammates for three seasons at the University of South Carolina, defensive starters on some of Steve Spurrier's first teams at the school. More than that, though, they were roommates in college, sharing life experiences at a time when both were trying to see if they'd have what it took to make it in the NFL.
"We’ve been through a lot together -- sweat, blood, tears, injuries," Brinkley said after the Vikings' workout on Tuesday. "We’ve been through a whole lot together, so it’s like having one of your brothers with you.”
So when Brinkley was returning to the Vikings for his second stint with the team, having signed a one-year deal with Minnesota a year after departing for Arizona in free agency, he jumped at the chance to sell Munnerlyn on coming with him. "We talked a lot," Brinkley said. "When he told me he was taking a visit, I was just coming off of mine. I told him what my idea was about coming back here. I told him that this felt like home for me and that he would like it."
Brinkley and Munnerlyn play together for the first time since college, in a defense that would seem to have roles ready for both of them. Munnerlyn will be the Vikings' slot cornerback in the nickel package, and said he plans on playing outside in the team's base defense, as well. And Brinkley returns to a vastly different system than the Vikings ran before; he'll be asked to play in the box and stop the run as a middle linebacker this time around, rather than dropping into coverage in the Vikings' old Cover-2 scheme. If Brinkley wins the competition for the middle linebacker spot, he could find a system more suited to his skill set than what he'd had in Minnesota before.
"That’s all I’ve ever done my whole life. So it kind of feels great with me," Brinkley said. "(In Cover-2), the middle linebacker is just really not involved in everything in the box. You’re more of a pass-first guy. And now you can be more of a run-type guy. That’s the only difference.”
The Vikings won't know for months how well their defensive changes have worked, and there's plenty that can happen before April's talk of a physical, aggressive defense can become September's reality. But both Brinkley and Munnerlyn said on Tuesday how comfortable they feel in the scheme. On top of that, they've got the chance to reunite on the field.
"I feel I’m a people person. When people get around me, they seem to feel me. I feel them out a bit," Munnerlyn said. "You know, Jasper Brinkley made it a whole lot easier, my college roommate. He made it a whole lot easier for me. I’m just excited, man. New faces, I’m the new face around here. I’m excited to play football and make plays."