When he first arrived in Minnesota, wide receiver Greg Camarillo seemed a bit like a fish out of water. He had carved himself out a nice niche with the Miami Dolphins, but, with the Dolphins short on secondary depth, a deal was struck that sent Benny Sapp to South Florida and brought Camarillo to the soon-to-be Great White North.
He was out of his comfort zone playing with a new locker room of teammates and going from what had been something of a revolving door at quarterback in Miami to playing with a Hall of Famer in Brett Favre. He didn't know many of the people in the Vikings locker room and, despite being in his fifth season, he felt like he was starting from scratch once again.
"I just had to prove myself again," Camarillo said. "That kind of thing takes time. You can't just come in and expect that everyone is going to accept you because you've done something with another team, especially when you weren't in training camp. Those offseason things – OTAs, minicamps and into training camp – is where trust is built. I came in late to the game, but I think it's getting there. Hopefully over time I can earn the respect of everybody in this locker room through hard work."
His role with the team was relatively nondescript early – he had just six catches through the first seven games and his primary role was as a punt returner – a job he took over in Week 2 of the season and has held ever since. But, in last Sunday's win against Arizona, Camarillo was everywhere. He caught four passes for 66 yards, returned seven punts for 86 yards and made a spectacular defensive play that erased a sure touchdown when he punched the ball out of the arms of Kerry Rhodes, who was in the process of returning a Favre interception for a touchdown.
Camarillo is no stranger to such heroics. In 2008 with the Dolphins, he made a nearly identical play against the Houston Texans – punching out the ball on an interception return that was recovered by Miami, which went on to score to take the lead late in the game, only to be beaten on a field goal as time expired.
The timing of the big defensive play against the Cardinals Sunday couldn't have come at a better time. The game was scoreless and momentum would have swung firmly in the direction of Arizona if not for his heads-up play. But Camarillo said he was more of an opportunist than anything else and, if not for the play of a teammate, likely wouldn't have had the chance to make the strip.
"It was just a play of opportunity," Camarillo said. "I was chasing the play down, but it was (Greg Lewis) that was able to get him to come back toward the middle of the field. If he doesn't do that, I don't have the chance to get to him and knock the ball out. I got all the credit for it, but it was a team effort that made that play happen."
Those squandered points would prove critical as the Vikings fought back from a 14-point deficit for the win, but Camarillo said he can't take too much time getting congratulatory back-slapping and handshakes. It's a proud moment, but, at the same time, it's history and won't translate to Sunday's game with the Bears.
"It was exactly what the team needed at the time," Camarillo said. "We needed something to boost our emotions and bring the team together. A comeback win brought us all together, but it doesn't mean that it will translate to this week. We just need to build on it."
Camarillo said he is feeling more comfortable with his role on the team. More importantly, he is developing a rapport with Favre – something he admits is a work in progress.
"The more reps we're getting together in practice, the more chemistry we'll build," Camarillo said. "You need to get timing down and I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with getting Brett's trust that he can put a ball in a tight zone and I will make the catch. Those sorts of things take time and we're getting there."
Getting into a groove with Favre is something he has become painfully accustomed to. In his three seasons with Miami, he had to adjust to four different QBs with very different styles – Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, Chad Pennington and Chad Henne. He said his role with Favre, who overshadows the previous QBs he has played with, is what makes him so special and can turn any play into a big-gainer at any time.
"There's no tricking that guy and he is able to make instant adjustments based on what he sees," Camarillo said of Favre's on-field acumen. "He's one of the smartest quarterbacks out there. Offenses are based on taking what the defense gives you. You can't double-team everybody. If you leave Percy one-on-one, he'll take advantage of that. If you leave Shank one-on-one, he'll take advantage of that. You have to be ready at all times, because the way Brett sees the field, he will bring it to you if you're open – even if you're not the primary target on that play."
With the Vikings beginning the second half of the season Sunday at Chicago, Camarillo said he hopes to get used even more in the Vikings new-look, post-Moss offense and said he is prepared to play the role deemed worthy of him – whether it is reduced somewhat with the return of Sidney Rice, remains the same as it is now, or continues to increases as the season wears on.
"Whatever they need me to do, I'm here to do it," Camarillo said. "They have given me the opportunity and I'm just trying to take advantage of it."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
For Camarillo, trust took time
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