The Vikings entered their regular-season opener with only three cornerbacks against the pass-inclined New Orleans Saints and a few other players missing the game because of injuries.
On Monday, some of those players were trying to work their way back into the rotation. Rookie cornerback Chris Cook took part in at least the individual drills, although head coach Brad Childress said Cook didn't look completely comfortable yet.
It was Cook's first practice back since injuring his meniscus in the third preseason game Aug. 28 and having arthroscopic surgery to repair it, but cornerback Cedric Griffin is also continuing to progress.
"Right now it's still a growing process. We're just trying to get strong, getting primed up, getting some practice reps and we're going to see how it goes from there," Griffin said after Monday's practice.
Despite not playing since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the NFC Championship Game Jan. 24, Griffin said his familiarity with the Vikings' defensive system would allow him to make a quick transition back into game action once the trainers and coaches pronounce him ready to go.
"I've been in the system for five years. It has not changed," Griffin said. "We tweak little stuff from week to week. I'm in all the meetings. I'm very studious, so I know what's going on. My wind is really good right now and I'm in shape, so I'll be ready to go when my number is called."
Cook (6-foot-2) and Griffin (6-0) are the Vikings' tallest cornerbacks and would be especially helpful against the Miami Dolphins and receiver Brandon Marshall, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds.
Marshall had eight catches for 53 yards against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but Griffin said playing against Marshall doesn't create extra incentive for him to rush back into action.
"I've played very well against him … so no added motivation," Griffin said.
The Vikings played Denver in the final week of the 2007 regular season and Marshall had 10 catches for 114 yards in a season in which he had a career-high 1,325 yards.
KENNEDY ON A ROLL
Vikings defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy held a little self-deprecating session after practice on Monday.
Kennedy hasn't played since injuring his knee against the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 22, but said he was ready to play in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints. He's hoping the coaches and trainers will give him clearance to play against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
"I was ready to play last week. Mentally, I'm always ready to be out there. I hate missing games. So we'll see," he said Monday after practice.
"I'm always trying to push. I've had enough of missing games. If they see fit to have my big ass out there running around, then we're going to be out there running around, making plays. That's what we do."
Kennedy jokingly compared his frustration about not playing to Albert Haynesworth's ordeal over the weekend. Haynesworth, the Washington Redskins' disgruntled defensive tackle, was called out over the weekend not being in a defensive huddle on the sideline. After further review, no other defensive linemen were involved in the huddle either, but Haynesworth took a fair amount of criticism after an offseason of comments voicing his displeasure concerning the Redskins' switch to a 3-4 defense.
The Vikings played eight defensive linemen against New Orleans, but Kennedy wasn't one of them.
"For me, it wasn't about who was rotating in and out. I looked like Haynesworth standing on the sidelines," Kennedy said with a laugh. "I was like, ‘Hold up, I need to be out there.' My thing was I wasn't focused on who was in there. I was focused on the fact that I was out."
Kennedy said he is concentrating on his cardio and diet and once his adrenaline takes over in a game he'll be "cool."
"You won't ever hear a complaint out of me. I'm cool," he said when asked how he felt on Monday. "We'll see how it looks when you have pads on. No double teams coming off on me yet. Everything felt fine."
GERHART GETTING BACK?
Running back Toby Gerhart joined Cook as the two second-round picks to miss the season opener with knee injuries. None of the Vikings' rookies were active for the game.
Gerhart practiced on a limited basis last week and he was back on the field Monday, but he wasn't sure if he would play or not against Miami. However, he said his familiarity with the offense isn't an issue anymore.
"I felt definitely comfortable – run game, pass game, protection, everything's comfortable now," he said. "Everything's slowed down and I'm ready to go out there and show what I can do."
Pass protection is usually the area rookie running backs struggle with the most, and Gerhart agreed that is the biggest hurdle.
"I would say so. The run game is pretty similar across the board from college and then you memorize your routes, remember those. It's just the different things the defense throws at you, you've just got to be on the same level with everybody else and pick it up. Now I feel comfortable with that."
With the conclusion of the Monday night games, the Vikings rank 25th in offense (19th rushing and 23rd passing) and 17th on defense (eighth against the rush and 19th against the pass).
Their opponent Sunday, the Miami Dolphins, have the 19th ranked offense (tied for eighth rushing and 22nd passing) and the top-ranked defense (fifth against the run and fourth against the pass).
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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