EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -When Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison takes the field on Thursday night for the preseason finale at Dallas, his heart will be pounding a little faster for two reasons.
Robison will be making his 2008 debut after missing nearly all of training camp and the preseason because of a varicose vein in his leg, and he will be doing it at Texas Stadium, a cathedral in the football-crazy state where Robison grew up and starred in college.
``I'm excited, especially going back home and after watching the last three games from my house,'' said Robison, a multisport star at Splendora High and the University of Texas before being drafted by the Vikings in the fourth round last year. ``I'm excited to get back out on the field.''
Robison had the varicose vein surgically repaired during the first week of training camp and is just starting to participate fully in practices. His return is a welcome one on the Vikings defensive line, which is missing Kenechi Udeze while he goes through treatment for leukemia and Jayme Mitchell, who is also out for the season with a knee injury.
``We missed him,'' defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. ``He's a guy that did well for us as a rookie and we felt like he was really making improvements over the summer. It's unfortunate that he had a setback. But now that he's back he'll be a quality guy for us.''
Robison was third in the NFL among rookies last season with 4.5 sacks. He is considered the top backup to starters Ray Edwards and Jared Allen, but building on a solid first season became more difficult when the vein started giving him problems during the first week of training camp.
``Anytime you're sidelined, it's not OK,'' Robison said. ``Sitting here watching the last three games, it's kind of disheartening. It puts things in perspective for you and you realize that at any time it can be taken away from you.''
Now Robison is hurrying to get back into a groove with the regular-season opener at Green Bay on Sept. 8 less than two weeks away.
``As far as I'm concerned I'm ready to go now,'' Robison said.
Facing the Cowboys will be the first test. Coach Brad Childress said he plans to rest most of his starters to avoid injury, so Robison could see plenty of playing time on Thursday night.
``I don't see a great falloff and like he told you, that (injury is) not an issue because it's not there anymore,'' Childress said. ``What better thing than to have whatever ailment you had removed and that's where he's at right now.''
Robison is eager to join what is expected to be one of the best defensive lines in the league, with Allen, the reigning sack champ, Edwards and tackles Kevin and Pat Williams forming a formidable front.
If all goes well in his recovery, the Vikings see the speedy Robison as a valuable rusher in nickel packages and a spot reliever for Edwards and Allen.
``We lost a little depth losing Jayme Mitchell, so it has really raised Brian's stock,'' Frazier said. ``If he can continue to improve he'll be a great addition to what we are trying to get accomplished.''

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