First interception special to Rhodes

Xavier Rhodes was excited to get his first interception, but hopes to move the needle from “one” to plural in a hurry.

When Xavier Rhodes came to the Vikings, he didn’t think it would take 23 games to record his first NFL interception, but after a long wait he finally got his first pick last Sunday against Jay Cutler and the Bears.

Rhodes has been close on several occasions, but the first pick has proved to be elusive. However, now that he has the first one out of the way, he’s looking forward to the prospect of getting more.

“It felt great to get that first one out of the way,” Rhodes said. “Now it’s just about trying to get more this season and move on from there.”

Once the first interception came his way, over the last week he has been reminded by teammates and coaches that, much like sacks for pass rushing defensive ends, when the picks start coming, they often come in bunches.

“That’s what I was told,” Rhodes said. “Everybody says that. I hope it’s true and that they do keep on coming. I’ve had some chances to get picks before and it just didn’t happen. Hopefully, that will change now.”

Coming up with interceptions has become more difficult as passing games have become more advanced and throwing has become more precise, as offenses look to find weaknesses in defenses and rarely push the ball down the field and force passes in gunslinger style.

Often times, interceptions come on tipped passes because quarterbacks have learned how to protect the ball better on deep passes, often using sideline passes or back-shoulder throws to prevent defensive backs from getting their hands on the ball to even have the chance for interceptions, which makes Rhodes’ first career NFL pick even more gratifying.

“With the great quarterbacks we have in the league, it isn’t easy to get interceptions,” Rhodes said. “That’s why it was so special to me. You have to work for them and I was just happy I could get that first one done. Now hopefully they will continue to come as I improve my coverage.”

Veteran Captain Munnerlyn has nine career interceptions, including two this season for the Vikings. He buys into the theory that once you start getting interceptions, additional ones tend to follow. But he was also quick to point out that there can be long droughts in between picks because they aren’t as easy to come by as some might think.

“You can go a long time without getting one,” Munnerlyn said. “But there is some truth to that ‘they come in bunches’ talk. You’ll see a guy go a half a season without one and then he’ll get like three in two games. I think a lot of it has to do with confidence and instead of trying to deflect a ball away, you start looking to pick off passes. You’ve seen (Rhodes) play. There isn’t much he can’t do and that one was just the first of many he’s going to have in his career.”

Rhodes kept the ball as he went to the sideline Sunday and the ball was quickly snapped up by the equipment staff and separated out from the rest of the balls on the sidelines. Often times, when there is a memorable play made, teams will take the ball, have it personally inscribed with the date and the event and present it to the player when the artwork on the ball is completed.

Rhodes admitted that he hasn’t been overly sentimental about such things, but when he heard what they were going to do with it, he has already picked out a spot on his mantle where the ball will be displayed with pride.

“They’re going to do the stuff they do with those types of things – put writing on it that says ‘first interception’ and give it to me when it’s done,” Rhodes said. “I’m sure I’m going to put it somewhere special because it does mean a lot to me and it’s something I will keep forever.”

Now all we have to do is see if the time-honored adage is true and the picks just keep on coming.

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