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    Offord Looking To Rebound From Knee Injury

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

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    Re: Offord Looking To Rebound From Knee Injury

    Posted on Fri, Jul. 28, 2006

    [size=18px]Offord looking to rebound from knee injury[/size]

    Associated Press

    MANKATO, Minn. - Willie Offord thought he was finally there.

    The Minnesota Vikings safety had an interception in the end zone and two passes defensed against Cincinnati in Week 2 last season, then started the following week against New Orleans.

    He had three quarterback hurries, four tackles and a pass defensed early against the Saints. Everything was going so well.

    "I feel like I was showing everyone what I could do and that I deserved to be here and be a starter in the league," Offord said Friday at Vikings training camp.

    Then he felt a pop in his left knee, and it was all over. The Vikings' special teams captain tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while covering a kickoff in the fourth quarter, ending a season that started with so much promise.

    "It was definitely frustrating," Offord said. "One of the more frustrating times of my career. ... Now I'm looking forward to erasing all that and starting over."

    Now Offord is back at training camp hoping he can bounce back and regain the form that had him on the cusp of becoming a full-time starter.

    In many ways, he is starting over. Many thought it was a stretch when the Vikings drafted Offord out of South Carolina in the 2002 draft. Those skeptics seemed to be validated when he struggled in his first three seasons, though he did excel on special teams.

    Quiet by nature, he often looked overwhelmed with the exotic defensive schemes of the NFL and failed to earn consistent playing time on defense.

    Finally things started to come together last year in his second season under defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. Offord blossomed, becoming a vocal member of the secondary and backing up that chatter with consistent play on the field.

    Now, after the injury, the doubts have resurfaced.

    "He is doing well, but we're also cautious because of where he's come from with the injury standpoint," new Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said.

    Looking to assure the coaches, and himself, that he's fully recovered, Offord came to training camp three days early to get some extra work in. Rookies and some selected veterans had their first practice on Friday, while most of the team won't report until Sunday evening.

    Coaches and trainers have asked him to wear a bulky brace on his left knee to keep it stable while he gets used to running around on the field again. Offord said it is just precautionary and should be gone by the end of next week.

    "I feel like I'm all the way back," Offord said. "It's just getting my knee and body used to contact again."

    He better get used to it in a hurry. Despite signing him to a two-year contract extension in the offseason, the Vikings made several moves that could take away from his playing time on defense this season.

    First, the team signed Tennessee veteran Tank Williams and immediately penciled him in as the starter at strong safety opposite Pro Bowler Darren Sharper. And earlier this week, the Vikings added veteran Dwight Smith, who played under Tomlin in Tampa Bay.

    "Definitely a lot of depth," Offord said. "If someone goes down in October or November, the rest of us will step in and keep things rolling. We're going to need that a lot."

    If he can get all the way back, Offord has the size and skills to be a factor in Tomlin's aggressive, attacking "Tampa 2" defense.

    At least from a mental standpoint, Offord seems to be catching on fast.

    "One thing I can say about Willie is that above the neck, mentally, he is attacking it, and that is the first thing that has to happen," Tomlin said. "That's been good, so he is progressing well."

    Jon Krawczynski can be reached at [email protected]

    Offord looking to rebound from knee injury

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

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