After he sacked Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in the first quarter Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium, Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks pounded his chest. An excited and exuberant Kendricks could be a familiar sight during Vikings games for years to come.
Installed as the starting middle linebacker against Denver, the rookie from UCLA made his second start Sunday in the Vikings’ 16-10 victory over the Chiefs and finished with a game-high nine solo tackles, one assisted tackle, one sack, one tackle for a loss, one quarterback hurry and one pass defensed.
You pounded your chest after your sack. Is that your signature celebration for a sack?
EK: No, I just went with what I felt at the moment.
Do you have a signature celebration or are you working on one? Some guys work on them.
EK: I have a couple of go-tos. I wouldn’t say I have one. I just do what my body feels like.
How does it feel to start and know it could be your job for years to come?
EK: I don’t think about that. I love to play football. I’m just going to work at practice and work on what I have to correct and go back and play games.
When (rival and three-game starter at middle linebacker) Gerald Hodges was traded, what went through your mind?
EK: I didn’t really think of it much. I have a job to do, and I come with the same mind-set every day.
EK: We can say that, I guess.
What do you need work on?
EK: Everything. I’m a rookie. This is the NFL and there are a lot of great players. I left a lot on that field, and I have a lot to correct.
Do you enjoy run or pass defense more?
EK: It doesn’t matter. I just like being out there.
How much does it help to have your former college teammate, Anthony Barr, playing alongside you?
EK: He has been a great help. He went through the same process a year prior to me, so he gives me little keys here and there. The whole linebacker group, we learn from each other.
How painful was it to see the Chiefs score on that 42-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter?
EK: I forgot about it quick. I tried to get the ball from him at the end. I knew he was going to slow down at the goal line. You try to forget about things quickly.
Were you worried the Chiefs would come back on you?
EK: Not at all. Not at all. I don’t have that kind of mind-set, and I don’t think our defense does either.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce caught a 37-yard pass against you late in the game. Did he just get a step on you?
EK: I honestly don’t know what it was. I think it was a great throw. That’s the NFL. You’ve got to combat the great throws.
Any significance to having your first double-digit number of tackles in a game?
EK: I had a lot of tackles in college. I expect that.
Did you have a favorite middle linebacker growing up?
EK: I had a couple of favorites. There was Jeremiah Trotter on the Eagles. Patrick Willis (from the 49ers). Ray Lewis (of the Ravens). I’m just a fan of the game.