Griffin's Pro Career Just Getting Started

Cornerback Cedric Griffin displayed good tackling skills and an aggressive nature in helping the Texas Longhorns ascend to win the National Championship against USC in his final collegiate game. But now that he's in the NFL, he is learning what he needs to improve upon physically and mentally.

The maturation of Cedric Griffin from National Championship cornerback in the NCAA to starting cornerback in the NFL is looking and sounding like it will take more than just showing up for summer workouts.

The former Texas Longhorn and initial 2006 second-round pick of the Vikings showed up for his first minicamp practices as a professional in May looking to earn the trust of the coaches until he got to training camp.

"I just want to make progress so the coaches can have confidence in me so I can go into training camp and try to get the starting role at nickel or somewhere in the dime package or somewhere like that," said soft-spoken but physical defensive back.

With Texas, Griffin posted 89 tackles his senior season and averaged 68 in his previous three seasons with the Longhorns, but that is all in the past.

Throughout the Vikings' summer sessions, Griffin undoubtedly made some progress. However, in the final weeks of practices this month before taking time off in preparation for the start of the NFL's long grind at training camp, Griffin still wasn't a clear-cut favorite to win the nickel role.

In reality, nobody is … yet. That probably will be determined throughout the preseason, but in June it appeared that Dovonte Edwards still had the lead over Ronyell Whitaker, Dustin Fox and Griffin in a crowded race for playing time behind starters Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot.

"All the guys that are here – Fred Smoot, Antoine Winfield, Darren Sharper – all of those guys are great guys," Griffin said. "I'm just trying to take information from them and develop my game right now. I'm learning right now."

His training regime of jumping rope and running in the time between Texas' National Championship win over USC in January and his first organized football practice in May left him somewhat behind. He admitted to fatigue in his first practices with the Vikings because he was out of football for a while and wasn't exposed to much of the offseason conditioning program at Winter Park because he wasn't yet a Viking.

The mental aspect of the NFL is another hurdle in his progress as a pro, specifically the Vikings' new Tampa-2 defense.

"It's completely different (than Texas)," Griffin said. "We played a lot of man zone and right now we're playing nothing but 2 and off-man – and a lot of 2. It's going to take some getting used to, but other than that I think it should be fine. But I like to hit and I like to cover, and that's what Coach Mike (Tomlin, the Vikings' defensive coordinator) does."

Ultimately, as he battles through the early phases of his rookie season – getting back in football shape and learning a defense that is foreign to him – he believes his skills compare favorably to what he's seen of the NFL so far. But just how quickly he reaches his goal of being on the field in a nickel or dime defense during the regular season remains to be seen.


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