MANKATO -- Bryce Paup is enjoying his change of scenery. A new team, a different position and a fresh start can do that.
"Going from a linebacker to a down lineman and to the other side, it takes some getting used to," the Minnesota Vikings' new pass rusher acknowledged.
Yet, Paup is delighted to have Jacksonville -- and his days as a drop-back linebacker -- in his rearview mirror.
He was forced to play unfamiliar coverage roles with the Jaguars and had just 6 1/2 sacks in 1998 and only one last year after averaging nearly 10 a season during his first seven years in the NFL.
"Last year, it just didn't work out in Jacksonville and I didn't want to end my career that way," Paup said. "And I'm out to prove to myself and to a lot of people that I can still do it."
Vikings coach Dennis Green is a believer. He moved Paup from left outside linebacker to right defensive end, where he'll take pressure off tackle John Randle.
"I don't think there is any doubt that Bryce is going to be in double digits in sacks," Green said.
Paup doesn't mind predictions of piling up so many sacks.
"Given the opportunity, I expect to, too," Paup said.
A premier pass rusher in his prime, Paup averaged 9 1/2 sacks in the eight seasons before going to Jacksonville. In 1995 with the Buffalo Bills, he led the league with 17 1/2 sacks and made the second of four straight Pro Bowls.
That led the Jaguars to sign him to a five-year, $21.9 million contract before the 1998 season. But the Jaguars inexplicably asked him to drop into coverage, where he admittedly was lost trying to follow tailbacks and tight ends all over the field.
He tore his pectoral muscle lifting weights last preseason and returned before he was fully healed and never played up to expectations. So, he was released over the winter.
"We were pleasantly surprised that Bryce Paup was available," said Green, who signed Paup to a one-year, $500,000 deal that could double with incentives.
Paup is still bitter about his time in Jacksonville and even blames the Jaguars organization for improperly training him during the offseason.
He said his workouts overly emphasized bench pressing, which is how he tore his pectoral muscle.
So, this offseason, he went to work with a physical therapist who was his next-door neighbor during his days in Buffalo from 1995-97.
"He set up a program where I was doing some really weird things in the gym and people were looking at me like I was crazy," Paup said.
Instead of the bench press, for instance, Paup got a weighted cable and swung it around, swiveling his hips as though he were a baseball player swinging at a pitch -- the same motion he plans to use when darting past offensive linemen.
Paup videotaped his workouts from his home in Green Bay, where he played for the Packers from 1990-94, and sent them to his friend for critiques.
The new workout philosophy helped him heal his body, lose weight and strengthen his torso.
And his outlook is better, too, knowing he won't be dropping back into coverage anymore.
"There's not the expectation for me to do a job without getting the opportunities," he said. "And for that burden to be off is great.
"Wherever I was going to sign I wanted to make sure they were going to use me to rush the passer, and I prepared the whole offseason to do that," Paup said. "So, hopefully we'll see the fruits of my labor."
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