Vikings rookies say they're confident, ready if needed
Posted on Fri, Oct. 06, 2006
[size=13pt]Vikings rookies say they're confident, ready if needed[/size]
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - College standouts Cedric Griffin and Greg Blue haven't had much time to adapt to the complicated defensive schemes of the NFL.
As injuries have depleted the Vikings secondary, Griffin and Blue have been learning on the fly. And with veterans Darren Sharper and Antoine Winfield both listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Detroit (0-4), the Vikings (2-2) could be counting heavily on the two rookies - who say they're ready to play.
"That's what I want," Blue said. "I want to earn the coaches trust and go out there and play my game. I'm ready for it. When you get your opportunity, you've got to take advantage of it."
"It's just like college coming in as a freshman," Griffin said. "You've got to get used to the veteran guys who tell you what to do. It's a learning process and I'm loving it right now because I'm learning from guys like Sharper, (Fred) Smoot and Antoine. All I can do is learn from them and go out on the field and perform when I get the chance."
Blue, a fifth-round draft pick, was thrown into duty immediately when coach Brad Childress suspended starter Dwight Smith for the season-opener at Washington. Blue has upheld the hard-hitting reputation that came with him from Georgia and has eight tackles this season.
Griffin, a second-round draft choice from Texas who started the final 38 games of his college career and played in the 2006 Rose Bowl against Southern California, has seen significant time at nickel back. He started in Week 3 against Chicago.
Both have also played on special teams.
Though Sharper and Winfield both practiced Friday, they are not likely to be 100 percent by Sunday's game at the Metrodome, putting more pressure on the rookies.
"The progress that I notice with Greg Blue, first and foremost, happens on the practice field," first-year defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said. "I can say the same thing about Cedric Griffin. As young guys, we challenge those guys to come out here on a day-to-day basis and get better and they've done that. They've accepted that challenge. They have a professional attitude when they come out here. I'm not surprised by what (Blue) is doing or what Cedric's doing. I can't speak to their confidence. But it's obvious they've gotten more comfortable."
"Cedric has done a great job in special teams - he and Blue both," Childress said. "Cedric is getting the feel for the defense. He certainly would come up and strike you."
Blue said adjusting to the NFL hasn't been as difficult as he thought it would be.
"I think it's easier to adapt from NFL from a big college program," Blue said. "Coming from high school to college is the hardest thing. You get to college and you're looking at a defense like "what it this?" because high school defense is so simple. You don't have any schemes or detail. When you get to college, it's a huge difference. This isn't my first time coming into a place where I was last on the depth chart. I understand the process that goes on in the NFL."
Griffin said Tomlin has helped prepare him since the start of training camp, and his confidence has continued to build. He rates his performance so far at "about an eight" but admits he has more work to do.
"It's been fun," Griffin said. "There's a lot of freedom and responsibility here. Like coach Tomlin said, the second group has to always be ready to play. I'm ready to step in and see what I can do, and the coaches have a lot of confidence in me. I just have to keep concentrating on technique and other minor things."
Notes: Tight end Jermaine Wiggins was upgraded to probable on the injury report after practicing Thursday.
Re: Vikings rookies say they're confident, ready if needed
I'm looking forward to seeing some more of those explosive hits by Greg Blue.
Re: Vikings rookies say they're confident, ready if needed
[size=13pt]Vikings: Coaches get two rookies ready to play like veterans[/size]
The Vikings aren't concerned Greg Blue and Cedric Griffin could see extensive action. They know coaches will have them ready.
Judd Zulgad, Star Tribune
Last update: October 06, 2006 â€“ 11:00 PM
The learning curve has been a short one for Vikings safety Greg Blue and cornerback Cedric Griffin.
Four games into their rookie seasons, each has started once for the Vikings and been asked to play a significant role in at least one other game.
And that might only be the beginning.
The Vikings will enter Sunday's game against Detroit with safety Darren Sharper and cornerback Antoine Winfield vowing to play despite quadriceps injuries that have them listed as questionable on the injury report. Both were able to practice Friday, but Blue and Griffin will be on high alert.
In a worst case scenario, half of the Vikings' secondary will be made up of first-year players. That prospect doesn't concern veteran free safety Dwight Smith. The reason? Smith's faith in the abilities of defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin and his staff.
"The whole key is when you talk about young guys you don't really know them," said Smith, who had Tomlin as his defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay for four seasons. "You can go off of tape or whatever but you don't really know them. The trust that we have is not in the young players, it's in the coaches that they will have guys ready to play. So far it seems like that has been working."
Blue, a fifth-round pick out of Georgia, got an immediate test, starting the regular-season opener at Washington in place of Smith. Smith was deactivated for the game for what were believed to be disciplinary reasons. Blue did not stand out but he also didn't make any glaring errors and finished with six tackles.
He also played the fourth quarter last Sunday at Buffalo, replacing the injured Sharper. Blue had one tackle but it was among the most memorable by a Viking this season. On third-and-10 from the Buffalo 31-yard line, Bills quarterback J.P. Losman threw a screen pass to Roscoe Parrish at the 27. Blue, who prides himself on big hits, blasted Parrish for a 4-yard loss and left the receiver lying on the field.
Blue echoes Smith's statement, saying the coaching he has received from Tomlin and defensive backs coach Joe Woods has been crucial.
"When you know what to do, you can go out there and play fast," Blue said. "That's why I've been fairly good out there for the last couple weeks."
Griffin, taken with the first of three second-round picks by the Vikings, actually has played the bigger role of the two. While his start at right cornerback on Sept. 24 against Chicago lasted only one series -- cornerback Fred Smoot was benched for disciplinary reasons -- Griffin has become a semi-regular in the nickel package when a linebacker comes off and a cornerback is added.
In Buffalo, he alternated series with veteran corner Ronyell Whitaker in the nickel and if Winfield is able to play, the same is expected to happen against Detroit.
"I'm feeling pretty comfortable but the season is long here, so I'm still trying to get into the groove and still trying to learn," Griffin said. "Just see what I can do out there."
So far, Tomlin has been pleased.
"As young guys, we challenge those guys to come out here on a day-to-day basis and get better and they've done that," he said. "They've accepted that challenge. They have a professional attitude when they come out here and what you see on the game field is just a product of what they do out here on a day-to-day basis."
Griffin, for one, said that attitude is to be expected.
"This is the NFL and at any moment you can play," he said. "Me and Blue are always ready to play and we want that chance to go out there and show what we can do."
By JUDD ZULGAD