It wasn't too big for Nick Vigil (59) in the middle.
Rookie Nick Vigil figures it was 48 hours before his NFL debut when Bengals linebackers coach Jim Haslett told him he'd be playing "a little," middle linebacker against the Vikings last Friday night.
One series turned into two. A couple of series turned into a quarter. A quarter turned into a quarter and a half. By the time it was over, Vigil had played the most snaps on the team with 46 that included his plays on special teams, at WILL backer, in nickel, and in the middle.
The only time he had played the middle was at rookie minicamp that first weekend in May, a week after the Bengals took him in the third round out of Utah State.
"He told me if I didn't know what to do, if I got lost, just run to the ball," Vigil said before Monday's practice. "Pretty good advice. I actually think I made more mistakes at WILL, the positon I've been playing."
Backup middle linebacker Trevor Roach (hamstring) returned to practice Monday but he didn't play against the Vikings and Haslett needed a guy to get from starter Rey Maualuga in the first series to Michigan State free agent Darien Harris about the middle of the third quarter.
Vigil got the call for a number of reasons, not the least significant of which is they think he's got an extremely high football IQ and Friday night they saw it play out with a team-high six tackles. It also reinforced their notion that he is on a fast track to being a solid player for them in any number of spots.
"I don't have a different mindset," said Vigil of playing in the middle. "I kind of studied it. We didn't have all of our calls into the game plan. It was kind of condensed learning before I went out there. It wasn't too bad."
During the spring drills Vigil had used the defensive helmet with the communications device patched in to coordinator Paul Guenther on the sideline, so Friday night that wasn't much of a problem.
"The hardest thing is when you're trying to make the call and the offense comes out of the huddle quickly and you're talking to Coach," Vigil said. "But you can't hear yourself so you don't know how loudly you're talking over the mike. But it wasn't too loud in the stadium. It went pretty smooth."
Vigil had plenty of guys to help him because head coach Marvin Lewis subscribes to the theory a linebacker is a linebacker and should be able to play anywhere. Vontaze Burfict, Vincent Rey, Karlos Dansby, and the very impressive Harris are all guys like him that can play every spot.
"Good group. Good group," Haslett said Monday. "They need to get better. Vigil made a lot of plays Friday. He did a good job."
Vigil also knows the ones where he made a mistake. He was one of the two backers in the nickel package on the next to last play of the first half and allowed an 18-yard catch to Laquon Treadwell that set up what proved to be a key score, the 51-yard field goal by Blair Walsh that made it 10-7 at halftime in a game the Bengals lost, 17-16.
"I just had bad eyes. I jumped a route I shouldn't have jumped," Vigil said. "I should have stayed deeper. They got one in behind us and it was in my area. There was a run play I was out of my gap. They got seven yards. Other than that, it was OK."
Vigil laughed. Yes, he said, sometimes Burfict calls him "Luke," for Panthers Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. But now that he has played a lot of middle backer in a game, he doubts Burfict will call him Luke more.
"I doubt it," Vigil said.
It sounds like they're just glad they called him in the third round.
Cincinnati Ben-Gal Cheerleaders perform during the Minnesota Vikings vs Cincinnati Bengals game 8/12/2016