If you are looking for further proof that Rick Spielman keeps the long-term health of the Minnesota Vikings' roster in mind, look no further than the case of Florida State defensive end Cornellius Carradine.
The Vikings have three starting-quality defensive ends all returning in 2013 – Pro Bowler Jared Allen, left defensive end Brian Robison and rotational fireplug Everson Griffen. The catch? All three have contracts that are scheduled to expire after 2013, which is likely one of the reasons that the Vikings scheduled a formal interview with Carradine, who goes by "Tank."
Carradine was establishing himself as one of the better pass rushers in college football last fall when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in November. Unless there is an Adrian Peterson-like recovery, he might not be ready for the start of his first NFL season, and the medical tests he received at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis will go a long way to determining how far his draft stock has slipped.
Carradine is about 2½ months into his rehab and, like Peterson last year, is rehabbing in Houston. He was expecting to start running this week.
"My knee feels good. I'm like a month ahead of schedule, actually like rehab five days a week, two times a day from 10-12 and 4-6, so I'm like a month ahead of schedule with all the rehab I'm doing," Carradine said.
"I expect to be 100 percent in April, so before the draft I'm gonna do
everything they did at the combine, run the 40, do position drills at
my pro day."
Carradine made his way into the starting lineup at Florida State in 2012 because of foot surgery to Brandon Jenkins. After starting 12 games, Carradine had already worked his way into the discussion as a potential first-round draft pick when the ligament tear put an abrupt end to his season after recording 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
Carradine says he is a cross between Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware in their pass-rushing ability, but he also admits he needs to work on getting quicker off the snap.
He played opposite Bjorn Woerner, who is considered an early first-round draft prospect, but he had to be patient in getting a starting role. He spent his first two seasons at Butler Community College in Kansas and it took him some time before he saw progress in his game during practices.
"When I came out of junior college, as you get to the Division I level, they've already got guys there," he said. "I went to a program where they already had guys that are just as good as me. I was there playing as a backup, had to learn the system, then when Brandon Jenkins went down they needed me to step up and play and I did, and I got things done."
Until the injury. It's impossible to tell at this point exactly how much that will affect his draft stock, but it certainly will have an impact, maybe even pushing him out of the first two days of the draft, depending what the medical exams revealed in Indianapolis and how he looks at his pro day.
But the farther he falls, the more he could be considered a possibility for the Vikings' future. They don't necessarily need a defensive end to contribute in 2013, but they could be looking for a significant contributor in 2014 and beyond if they don't retain the trio of Allen, Robison and Everson.
That could encourage them and other teams to wait for the risk and rehab timeline to intersect with value in the draft.
"I look at what our '14 roster looks like, what our '15 roster looks like. That goes into a lot of the decision process as well," Spielman, the Vikings' general manager, said at the combine. "You want to put the most competitive team you can put on the field in '13, but you've also got to see where potentially can I fill a hole I know is going to be there in '14? That's all part of the decision-making as well."
That would seem to be a logical fit for Carradine, given his injury and the Vikings' contract situation with their top veteran defensive ends.
Carradine wasn't shy about promoting himself, as is the case with most prospects at the combine, when asked what kind of player his future NFL team will be getting.
"They're going to get a great person, a guy that's passionate about the game of football, a guy that's a team player, cares about his team, loves to win, just a great guy overall," Carradine said. "A guy that's got a motor, a guy that is physical against the run, disruptive against the pass, and a guy that can shoot through gaps, and a guy that's just all over the field, and a guy that you'll want on your team that will come in and make impact plays on your defense."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings keep future in mind with interviews
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