Brandon Burton finds himself in an awkward position. At a time when the fifth-round draft pick is trying to earn his spot on the roster, he's doing so under pressure-cooker conditions. Because teams have rosters of 90 players and players haven't worked out with the team until just over two weeks ago, Burton said his early goals are pretty simple.
"I'm just trying to learn the defense," Burton said. "This is a real learning process for me and all the rookies. We were really set back by the lockout and not having OTAs. As far as picking things up, it's a process and I feel a little more comfortable with it each day."
One advantage Burton has over the other candidates for roster spots is that he is familiar with the Vikings defense. While the terminology is different, the tenets of the Tampa-2 defense the Vikings employ isn't all that dissimilar to what he ran when he was a Running Ute.
"We played Cover-2 at the University of Utah, but it was different than what we run here," Burton said. "As far as the details go, things are different, but a lot of the basic concepts are similar. It's something that, after you did it a few times, you pick it up and adjust to it."
Burton believes his experience playing in a variation of the Cover-2 will give him a leg up. As confusing as the voluminous amount of information is, he is convinced he would have been lost and overwhelmed if he came from a system in which he didn't play the zone defense that is so integral to the Cover-2.
Knowledge is power for young players and Burton is thankful he got drafted by a team that operates a similar defense to what he had at Utah.
"It's definitely a huge help," Burton said. "I think if I would have come into this situation not knowing how to play Cover-2 at all or the coverages we run here, it would have been a big setback for me. But, having the experience from college of playing in the system has made it easier for me than it has for some of the other guys."
His expedited learning curve has been helped by veterans like Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin, both of whom have been serving as on-field coaches in helping Burton get acclimated to his assignments from one play to the next.
Young players often need a veteran to show them the way, Winfield said. He has offered to be that player for Burton and said he can empathize with the unenviable position the rookies are under.
"Usually we all get together after the draft, so it's been a lot tougher on those young guys, who couldn't work on learning the playbook until now," Winfield said. "We've tried to take them under our wing and help them along. We're a pretty cool group. We all want everyone to exceed, so when they have questions, we're all willing to give them any help we can."
Winfield sees natural ability in Burton, but he said the biggest problem facing him now is getting field time. With a roster loaded with cornerbacks, just getting on the field can be a difficult task for the young players.
"The biggest thing for the younger guys is getting reps," Winfield said. "Right now we have eight cornerbacks on the roster, so there isn't a lot of time for everyone to get a lot of reps, which is important for the younger guys to pick up their role in the system. Guys like Brandon have to make the most of those chances when they come around."
Burton appreciates the effort players like Winfield and Griffin have provided, saying that, considering all of the things that have gone against the Class of 2011 during the lockout, even the smallest little edge can be the difference between making a roster and being a cut casualty.
"Those guys have been great," Burton said. "They've been helpful and when you have the experience guys like Antoine and Cedric have, I listen to everything they say and try to get as much info as possible. Given our situation for rookies, I'm grateful for all the help I can get. I need 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.
Burton playing cornerback catch-up
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