(Eds: Updates with quotes, details.) By DAVE CAMPBELL AP Sports Writer The Minnesota Vikings need a new man in the middle of their defense.
Jasper Brinkley has inherited the job, as long as he can stay healthy. Doing his homework, though, might be the most important part.
Brinkley missed all of 2012 after surgery on the hip he injured during the preseason, but the Vikings believed enough in the ability of their fifth-round draft pick from 2009 to let free agent E.J. Henderson, their starter at middle linebacker for most of the last decade, go unsigned. Henderson is still available in case Brinkley gets hurt or stumbles badly.
The 27-year-old is learning as much as he can about playing this critical position to make sure that doesn't happen.
''I just have to continue to be a pro, man. Go in and study. Pick up on little keys, things somebody else might not see,'' Brinkley said. ''Definitely got to go into the film room and devote more time to studying. ...