THOMSON — As he held court in front of 180 campers Friday, Jasper Brinkley showed no signs of an injured body.
The Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker is fully recovered from a hip injury he suffered before the 2011 season. In June, he missed the team’s mini camp with a groin injury, an ailment he said the press blew out of proportion.
“I just had a little strain,” he said. “You know how the media is.”
Minnesota is pinning its hopes on a healthy Brinkley to dominate in the middle of the defense, where he’s slated to start this season. Brinkley, who starred for two seasons at South Carolina, played two years in a backup role with the Vikings before missing all of last season with a torn labrum. He said he’s motivated to show everyone the decision to start him is a smart one.
“Being in the National Football League, I feel like you have to prove yourself every day,” he said. “I want to show my coaches I am capable of being a leader, I am able to lead that defense.”
The 27-year-old Brinkley, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday, said he’s been working out and running full speed since February. When training camp begins July 26, he said he’ll be prepared.
“I’m ready to go,” Brinkley said. “My first year, I was thrown in the fire and had to learn on the go. I’ve just built off that year after year. I’m just blessed to be around a lot of great guys, and I’m blessed to come from a great hometown.”
Brinkley held his Camp 54 football camp throughout the day for children at Sweetwater Park, giving on-field instruction. Later, he and his twin brother, Casper, and several friends like former Thomson and University of Georgia linebacker Danny Verdun-Wheeler, Tennessee Titans center Fernando Velasco (a former Jefferson County High School and Georgia standout) and Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson each went inside and talked to the children about making good choices and working hard in school. They finished the camp by signing free autographs and posing for pictures for everyone.