MANKATO, Minn. (AP) Whenever Mike Zimmer has felt uneasy about the safety situation on his defense, he's called Chris Crocker to come in and stabilize things.
So it's no surprise with the safety position opposite standout Harrison Smith up for grabs, Zimmer is bringing back old reliable one more time.
Crocker signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, giving Zimmer some much-needed insurance on the unproven back end of his defense.
Each of the previous two seasons, as defensive coordinator in Cincinnati, Zimmer talked Crocker out of retiring to play for the Bengals. Zimmer also brought Crocker with him when he moved from defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons to the Bengals in 2008.
Now that Zimmer is in his first season as a head coach with the Vikings, Crocker is again coming back to help him out.
''I never retired,'' said Crocker, who had 37 tackles and two interceptions in 12 games last year. ''You always are kind of ready. Especially when you know you got a guy like Zimmer that you can play for. You know we have rapport and we talk often and in this part in my career I wouldn't want to go (with) anyone else. I'm not starting over, I wanted to play for a guy who has meant a lot for my career and I've given him everything that I have. Just empty the gas tank and see where it goes.''
The position opposite Smith has been in flux since Zimmer took over. Robert Blanton appeared to be in line to be the starter but injured his hamstring during training camp and will likely miss several weeks. Jamarca Sanford missed much of the spring with injury and has yet to impress in training camp. Mistral Raymond has been equally unimpressive to this point and Andrew Sendejo was just activated from the physically unable to perform list on Monday.
''I've given everything I have to him,'' the 34-year-old Crocker said of Zimmer. ''I think I've been accountable. That's the biggest thing that I've not only been accountable, but I've been a playmaker for him and that's all he can ask for in a player.
''From a coaching standpoint he's just so honest and you can really appreciate that the guy is going to tell you whether you're good or whether you're bad, but at the end of the day you're going to know where you stand. I've always played at the highest level playing for a guy like that.''