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Zimmer impressed with linebacker Kendricks, will put him in the middle

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You couldn't blame Mike Zimmer for being excited on the first day of rookie minicamp with the Vikings sporting three highly-drafted first-year defensive players.

The Star Tribune notes that one player Zimmer seems really excited about is linebacker Eric Kendricks. The Vikings selected the UCLA middle linebacker in the second round at No. 45 overall.

Zimmer told reporters Friday the plan for now will be to keep Kendricks in the middle.

"We're going to start him at Mike linebacker and see where that goes," said Zimmer. "We believe eventually down the road he'll probably be a Will linebacker for us."

He won the 2014 Butkus Award – which goes to the nation's top college linebacker. Kendricks is known for being a tackling machine; he finished with a school record 149 tackles last season, recording 10 or more stops in 11 games.

"Kendricks is a very instinctive playmaker, he mades a lot of plays," Zimmer added. "He's very, very intelligent and you could tell that in the meetings, and out here today making all the calls."

The majority of Kendricks' college snaps came in the middle. He told reporters he started out on the weakside, but an injury to the Bruins middle linebacker forced him inside – something he believes was the best thing for him.

"When I was moved to middle I had to understand defenses as a whole," Kendricks told reporters Friday.

He believes it was that move to the middle that allowed him to develop as a linebacker, though he knows playing the middle in the NFL will be a big challenge.

"I'm open to challenges, of course it's the NFL it's going to be more challenging ," Kendricks said. "I'm open for it, I'm going to work my butt off and do what I can for this team."

One less worry for the rookie is his contract. He was one of 10 rookies to sign their first NFL deals with the Vikings on Thursday. He inked a 4-year rookie deal that will pay him about $5.15 million.

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