In the last half of the final preseason game, the Vikings' outlook in their defensive backfield and punt return game shifted dramatically.
Cornerback Bobby Felder was coming off a couple of solid performances, both in coverage and returning punts. He was averaging 20.4 yards on five punt returns and gaining confidence on defense.
It appeared he was giving Marcus Sherels a run for his punt-return, backup nickel-back duties.
But Sherels took back the opening kickoff of the second half a record-tying 109 yards for a touchdown, and a little more than three minutes of game time later intercepted a Rusty Smith pass. Both plays helped improve Sherels' status.
Then, one Titans possession later, Felder was hurt and could hardly put any weight on his right ankle.
"It's just things that come with the game of football," Felder said after the game. "It was very discouraging knowing that I'm trying to do my best to make this team. And things like this come up, a little bump in the road. I've just got to overcome it and get better and try to rehab from it and get better when I get back."
Felder made those comments with his right foot in a boot and trying to navigate a crowded rookie locker room with a new set of crutches.
"I just know I was trying to shed a block and I can't really remember if the guy was trying to cut me, but I just know I got rolled up in a pile and that's basically what happened," he said.
But as long as Felder doesn't end up on a reserve list because of the injury, which was described as a sprain by head coach Leslie Frazier, he should make the Vikings' 53-man roster. He has done enough in the preseason, both on defense and in the return game.
"I just hope I'm blessed with the opportunity to stick around and be on this team," he said.
"I was just trying to show I could play multiple positions on the field, whether it's special teams, defense, whatever. There were a couple little mistakes I had out there, but I feel like all that comes with the game of football. I know that I can get better and learn from mistakes."
He was also making a bit of a transition, much like Josh Robinson.
Robinson hadn't practiced much at the nickel cornerback spot before this offseason and neither had Felder, who appeared to be second in line for that job before his injury.
"Learning the actual defense and playing the nickel the way that they want me to play the nickel, I would say that would be the biggest challenge (this preseason), just learning the different positions. The game of football, it's all a learning curve," Felder said.
"Before the fourth preseason last year, on a short week maybe one day I had one day learning nickel. They taught me as much as they could teach me due to the fact that a couple of vets couldn't play last year so they taught me the basics. I kind of picked it up pretty good for one day and they saw the potential that I could possibly have in the nickel. I'm still to this day still trying to learn the little things. I'm just trying to get better and prove to them that I can be a great player one day in this league."
Felder spent the entire 2012 season on the Vikings practice squad. While he was hoping to hone his skills with the nickel cornerback spot, his primary duties required him to be part of the scout-team defense and mimic the opposition's defense.
It wasn't ideal, but it was enough for him to get comfortable with the increased speed being closer to the snap of the ball.
"Every time we ran nickel for the opposite team, I would always slide inside to the nickel. I picked up a lot of things learning, but it's a lot different than just looking on the card and actually running the actual defense," Felder said. "It was a challenge to me, but it's all in the game of football and it all comes with growing. I know in good time, just being around these guys and great coaches that we have here, I know I can pick it up."
He's just hoping his ankle injury Thursday night doesn't derail his ascent up the depth chart.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Felder adjusting to new role
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