The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

August 8, 2010

Rookie D’Imperio adjusting to new position

Former standout at linebacker giving fullback a try

MANKATO — The challenges of jumping from college to the NFL can be daunting for just about any player but, for rookie Ryan D’Imperio, the task may be particularly difficult.

Not only is D’Imperio trying to make an NFL roster, he’s trying to do so as a completely new position. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder was a standout linebacker at Rutgers the last four seasons but the Vikings drafted him the seventh round to be a fullback.

D’Imperio said he wasn’t surprised when the Vikings called him on draft day because the two sides had already talked about the position switch.

“We talked about it on Pro Day and I was fine with it,” D’Imperio said. “Quite honestly, I just wanted to get a chance. I didn’t care what position, I’m willing to do anything.”

D’Imperio says it’s a big change but it’s coming along well.

“When you have good coaches and good teammates around you, it makes things a lot easier,” he said. “You can still use your hands as a fullback, the only difference is you have to keep them inside. As a linebacker you want to keep your hands away from you.”

The rookie says the little things are the biggest challenge for him in his new position.

“Knowing the alignments, reading the defenses, who you’re supposed to block, getting leverage on your opponent, those are all the things I’m wrestling with every practice,” he said. “Every play is different.”

Another aspect of the position that’s new to D’Imperio is catching the football. Over the last four years, the only pass-catching he did was on interceptions. Now he’s only being asked to block and run, but to be a receiver, as well.

“It’s coming along. It’s like anything, the more repetitions you get, the better you become at it.”

Good news, bad news

Running back Adrian Peterson delivered some good news after Saturday evening’s practice, saying he should be able to go full bore come Monday morning. Peterson said the leg injury he has been nursing, which limited his practice time the last few days, was actually a mild hamstring strain.

The news was not so good for tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. He appeared at the evening session with his left hand in a bandage. The nature of the injury was undisclosed.

The injury to offensive guard Anthony Herrera was not back spasms as originally reported but a cut to the inside of his right leg. He is considered day-to-day.

Young capitalizing

With Peterson limited in practice recently, back-up Albert Young has been  getting a lot more chances to run with the first unit in training camp. Young says he’s been seizing the opportunity.

“It’s huge to get to practice with the first team and get a feel for how those guys block,” he said. “Its crucial if I plan on playing with those guys in games to start feeling comfortable with them.”

More games, more money

Guard Steve Hutchinson said that extra games are likely going to be added to the NFL schedule, but there will have to be some negotiation between owners and the players’ union.

“I don’t know if it’s inevitable,” he said. “The owners clearly want it, and I don’t think we’re opposed to it if it’s done the right way.”

The NFL has talked about scrapping two preseason games in favor of adding two games to the regular season, but Hutchinson said the owners would be expected to pay more for players.

“It’s not as easy as saying we’re going to cut two preseason games,” he said. “You can’t just add two games. We’re beat up enough. There would have to be some compensation for two extra games.”

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