Sharrif Floyd says he is ready, bolstered in part by his dedication to improve.
Floyd was the first of three first-round draft picks by the Minnesota Vikings in April, taken No. 23 overall after a fall from predraft predictions that pegged him as a top-five value. Since then, Floyd has never indicated bitterness for his fall, believing he would end up where he was meant to be.
Now, with his preseason debut right in front of him on Friday night, Floyd maintains his even-keel focus.
"No emotions. I'm not going to get too high or get too low. I'm just ready," he said. "I'm going through my keys, making sure everything is in line and just going out and playing ball."
There is no publicly emotional part to Floyd's game, but he appears to be ascending as his practices at the professional level build and the preseason games approach.
"He's progressed every day as a rookie, starting to learn the game more and more," said right guard Brandon Fusco, who is occasionally charged with blocking Floyd. "He's become more explosive it seems like every day. He's learning his moves still, I think. He's out there learning just like everyone else, trying to get better, but I'm impressed with him so far. I think he's going to be a great player and I think he's got a bright future."
He is starting to show it. At the final full practice before the preseason opener, Floyd had a couple of "touch" sacks on the Vikings' protected quarterbacks and put a big and audible thud in the backfield on running back Toby Gerhart shortly after he took a handoff.
Despite only 4½ sacks in college, scouts thought highly of Floyd. But the 6-foot-3, 305-pounder doesn't separate his pass-rush ability from his run-stopping skills.
"I put it together and look at myself as a player that needs to get better and wants to get better and looks to get better," he said. "Every day you come out here, you're not going to do everything perfect: ‘Coach, what did I do wrong today? Give me something to work on for tomorrow. Coach, what did I do wrong? Now, give me something else to work on while I work on this in between.' It's just understanding that you can get better every day. No one can give 100 percent because 100 percent is impossible to get to."
But Floyd has been a dedicated pupil at training camp, asking for more instruction than most. He requested daily meetings with his position coach, Brendan Daly, to make sure the new techniques he is being taught are getting engrained and he is finding "every little way to get better."
"I asked him if I could sit down with him and go over some things and look at some things, look at guys that I resemble and have either been in the league or out of the league," Floyd said. "I don't want to watch it by myself. I want somebody there to tell me, ‘OK, this is how you look at that; this is how you look at that. That's why I go to him."
The experienced evaluation of Daly is especially important in Floyd's case because he didn't start following the NFL until after the 2007 season, when he saw the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl. That's why Floyd, despite a desire to hone his craft, can't even tell you the names of many of the players he is watching on film.
The lessons and techniques are important to him; the names of those executing them are not.
Apparently that approach is bearing fruit.
"He's really good with his hands. A lot of good linemen in this league, you've got to be good with your hands and press guys off," Fusco said. "He does a good job with his hands, separating off offensive linemen. I'm impressed with him so far."
Floyd's first real chance to impress the fan base and put the training of the last three-plus months into action will commence Friday night against the Houston Texans.
"At the end of the day, it's what are you going to do to put yourself in a position to pick up on what's being taught to you," he said. "As I'm looking at it, I have a new D-line coach compared to last year and I've got to learn his ways. The ways I already had in my head, most of that goes out the window because now I've got to refocus on what he wants me to do, not what I previously did. ‘Well, Coach, I did it this way.' ‘Well, Sharrif, I need you to do it this way.' There is no gray area anymore. I know what it is. I'll do what you want me to do."
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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