Lesnar shows Vikings some raw ability, but will they give him a shot?
Pioneer Press Columnist
Brock Lesnar is an imposing young man. He has a body you often see chiseled from marble, not flesh and bone. His arms are thicker than most people's thighs, his back so wide you could hang a Picasso from it. He is 6 feet 3, 286 pounds of thick, rippled muscle. Just standing there in a shirt and pants, he looks like a football player after all the pads have been put on.
The thing is, Lesnar doesn't just want to look like a football player. He wants to become one.
Lesnar had a tryout Friday with the Vikings to see if it's possible.
"He is a project with a capital P,'' said Scott Studwell, the Vikings' director of college scouting. "He's got physical tools, but he has a long way to go.''
That's not news to Lesnar.
"I know I'm raw. I know I need work,'' he said. "I'm a project. I'm looking for someone to mold me.''
He would like it to be the Vikings. He says he is ready shuck his image as a professional wrestler and play in the National Football League....
...So he's trying now by trying out. The Vikings were the first of about a half-dozen teams interested in working him out.
Lesnar's tryout with the Vikings drew more than two dozen people, including coaches, scouts, players and even secretaries who were curious about a guy who wants to go from making what he described as "a couple million dollars a year'' as champion of World Wrestling Entertainment to making the NFL minimum of $260,000.
"I think a road is involved here, but it's not as long as some people think,'' said Ed Hitchcock, Lesnar's St. Paul-based agent.
Actually, the road might be longer than Hitchcock and Lesnar would like to think. Lesnar is 26 years old and hasn't played football since high school. He toyed with the idea of playing for the Gophers as a senior, but that never happened. Instead, he concentrated on wrestling and won the NCAA heavyweight title.
"I wish I would have gone out for football,'' he said.
Lesnar ran 40 yards during Friday's tryout and his 4.75-second time was faster than most of the Vikings' defensive linemen can do. The defensive line, by the way, is where Lesnar would like to play.
"I like to attack the ball,'' he said.
The ability to get into that attack mode is what has the Vikings wondering. Lesnar struggled some with agility drills during his tryout, and even had trouble getting into a proper defensive stance.
"Is his first step up to par? No. Is his footwork up to par? No. Is his hand speed up to par? No. He's just raw, just as raw as they come from a football-playing perspective,'' Studwell said. "He's not raw from an athletic standpoint.''
That's why Lesnar is tantalizing — why the Vikings or some other NFL team might be willing to give him a chance.
"He is talented. He is a good athlete. He has a history of achievement. And you know he has a work ethic,'' Studwell said. "Is it a shot in the dark? Yeah. How long would it take him to come up to speed? How long would it take us to find out if he can play?''
Vikings coach Mike Tice, who has the final say, told Lesnar he doesn't have a roster spot for him. He also told him that could change. Once the Vikings conclude their developmental camp next week, Tice might cut a few players.
"If I have a roster spot, then we'll figure out where we need help and where we need to try a guy, including a Brock Lesnar,'' Tice said. "I told him he needs to get his groin healthy.''
Lesnar suffered a pulled groin and bruised pelvis, broken jaw and busted left hand in a motorcycle accident in April. He's still healing.
When he spoke to Lesnar, Tice encouraged him to work out for other NFL teams.
"Each time he could get better,'' Tice said. "I also told him to hire a former NFL player who played on the defensive line. He doesn't need to go to a gym.''
Lesnar has been working out the past seven weeks at an athletic training facility in Tempe, Ariz.
"What he needs is football,'' Tice said. "If two weeks from now he's healthier and has gone through workouts, we'll talk about the possibility of taking him to camp.''
Here's a prediction: Tice will find a spot for Lesnar.
When told of that prediction, Tice laughed. He likes developing players, something he often did when he was the Vikings' offensive line coach.
"I like the kid,'' Tice said. "Anybody, including us, has to have patience, because he's raw. If you have patience, which we've shown here, I see a little bit of glimmer there. If you see opportunity and have a roster spot, why not roll the dice?''
Keep this in mind: All NFL players must be released before they can be signed to any practice squad.....Therefore, if a team like the Vikings wanted to release Lesner, he would be available to every team in the NFL (clear waivers)....
If the Vikings hold Lesnar in any kind of high regard, they must keep him on the roster (ala-Steve Neal-Patriots)....
To be eligible for the practice squad, you can't play more than 9 NFL games over 2 seasons or more......basically, anybody who hasn't really played in the NFL can be on the practice squad.
It is going to be tough for him to learn everything about the game. I can see him becoming a specialty player. Maybe in pass-rushing situations, they put him at the drop-off LB spot and tell him to just get the QB. Those are the types of playes where rookies with raw talent (eg John Abraham) are able to excell. There is nothing complicated about going after the QB and thats all.
He can also be a very good player on the kickoffs. Just have him run down the field and go for the returner. Thats another position where his athleticism can help make him a valuable asset.
I doubt he will be the next Bruce Smith, but if he can contribute in those specialty situations, Tice got himself a valuable special teams player. It would be interesting to see what hed be able to accomplish under Westhoff's wing
Originally posted by isired+Jun 12 2004, 06:21 PM--></span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (isired @ Jun 12 2004, 06:21 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin--Jared@Jun 12 2004, 02:09 PM What are the rules for practice squad eligibility again? That is his most likely destination.
i could be wrong, but i don't think he'll give up his career for the practice squad. [/b][/quote]
If he cares about football at all, then he pretty much HAS to go there to take the time to learn.