Safety In Numbers

Willie Offord admits that the speed of the NFL, especially the mental part, is a challenge. But it helps having a veteran around that backs him.

Rookie strong safety Willie Offord has never been on the field for a regular-season NFL snap, yet he finds himself listed at the top of the Vikings' depth chart.

However, the third-round pick doesn't talk like a man who has a job nailed down. "I'm a rookie, and I've still got a lot to learn," he said. "Whether I start or I don't start I've still got a lot to learn. That's the only pressure I have, and I'm being pretty impatient with myself right now."

Offord admits the speed of the NFL is different than what he experienced while playing college football at South Carolina.

"It has been a little different, a little faster paced," he said. "Especially that first preseason game we had. Overall, I think there has been improvement every week and that's my goal."

Offord has spent plenty of time with his nose in the Vikings playbook trying to learn the defense. "You have to know more plays, more assignments," he said. "You have to know what everybody else around you is doing. Right now, I'm finally adapting to that."

One reason is because of the help he has received from veteran Ronnie Bradford, the starting free safety. "He has helped me every day," Offord said.

Said Bradford: "He's a physical talent. He has got great physical skills. He can run fast, jump high and he's strong as an ox. It's just the mental part of the game that I try to help him with. How to prepare for games, how to study opponents, film work, stuff of that nature.

"He has a lot of tools to be a Pro Bowler in this league. I just try to give him a little bit of direction — what to do, what not to do, how to carry yourself on and off the field. Those are just little, simple things. But he's a grown man. He knows exactly what to do and my biggest thing was getting his mental game up to the level.

"In a couple of weeks it's going to be for real. That's the biggest jump you have to make from college. A lot of people always say the NFL is so much faster. I'm not sure it's faster from a speed standpoint because you have guys in college who have great speed. It's faster from a mental standpoint because they do so much adjusting, motioning, formations. That's the fastest part of the game."

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