Griffin working hard to return for opener

Cedric Griffin knows it might be an optimistic timetable, but he would love to return to the field for the season opener in New Orleans, the site where he tore his ACL in the NFC Championship Game. Griffin, Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier all addressed his situation on Thursday.

On a day where many more familiar veteran faces came out of the Vikings locker room for the second round of OTA practices, cornerback Cedric Griffin's appearance was something of a surprise. Less than four months removed from ACL surgery on an injury suffered during the NFC Championship Game, Griffin took the practice field without a protective knee brace or sleeve over his healing knee.

While he didn't do much – he went through stretching drills with his teammates before joining most of the veteran starters in a quick exit from the practice field – simply seeing him on the field this soon after surgery is viewed as a positive. Griffin said he's aggressively attacking his rehab and hopes to be ready for the regular-season opener in New Orleans – the site of the injury that has put him on the shelf ever since.

"I would love to be 100 percent by training camp," Griffin said. "I know ACL surgery is difficult to come back from, but I'm trying to push the limits and make a miraculous comeback. Whatever happens, happens and try to see where I'm at for training camp. I believe I'm on track, but I'm going to leave that up to the trainers."

Head coach Brad Childress and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier both said Griffin is making good progress and is always at Winter Park doing the things he has to do as part of his post-surgery recovery process. Griffin said he has heard that such an injury has a timetable of about nine months to recover, which would put him past the Sept. 9 opener, but he said he is feeling very good about where he's at now.

"I don't have any limitations right now," Griffin said. "I'm not going to put a timeline on anything. I'm just going to wait and see the process and make sure everything is going well for me. Whenever they think it's ready and when I believe I'm ready, I'll go back out there."

Frazier said he can't speculate about when Griffin will be back, admitting he has little to do with that process. That is the domain of the trainers and doctors and he said they will have to give him clearance before Frazier can work his magic with him.

"In talking with (head trainer) Eric Sugarman, they really are pleased with his progress," Frazier said. "It really seems that he's on schedule and ahead of schedule in some ways. He's progressing well from everything I've been told."

One of the problems Griffin may face is his own desire to get back on the field. Too often, players with his kind of temperament push their bodies too hard in the rehab process and can suffer setbacks that effectively negate weeks worth of progress. Griffin said the trainers have occasionally had to pull back the reins to slow him down and he admits that there have been some concerns about trying to push too hard to speed up his recovery.

"That's always a concern," Griffin said. "I'm a competitive guy and I love to compete. I love to come out and watch practice and see if I can do the same drills they're doing. They have to hold me back a little bit, but I push myself to the limit – that's for sure."

It was clear the Vikings had their own concerns about the health and potential that Griffin may not be ready for the start of the season. In one of their few free-agent signings, the Vikings brought in former Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard and used their first selection in the 2010 draft on rookie CB Chris Cook. To some players, that could be seen as a vote of no confidence, but Griffin said his reaction was far different. He was happy to see both of them arrive.

"I felt great about it," Griffin said. "We need depth on our team. We need competition. We need guys who can make plays for our team and those guys will definitely be able to do it. Lito is a proven veteran. Chris Cook from Virginia, he seems like he has some ability out there. I'm glad we brought in those guys."

One of the steps in Griffin's recovery is when he throws away the protective brace he wears during intense workouts. Admittedly anti-brace, he said that will be a sure sign to the coaches and his teammates that he is ready to come back. No brace means he's on the fast track to returning at 100 percent.

"I won't be wearing a brace," Griffin said. "I wear a brace now just to work out and to run and cut just to keep it safe. When game time comes, I won't be wearing a brace."

Childress said that Griffin is progressing nicely, but pointed out that the recovery is a process that takes time and has ebbs and flows in responding to the rigors of the rehab program. While it's difficult at this point to speculate the level of his recovery when training camp opens in two months, Childress said he's satisfied with where he is at in the quest to return to the starting lineup.

"I think he's right about where he needs to be," Childress said. "He hasn't had many setbacks. It's amazing how their protocol goes. Guys that are within weeks of each other or a week and a half – this guy can do this, this guy can't do that – how they keep moving and then they plateau. It's to be expected. He's just about where we expect him to be."

Childress wouldn't go as far as to say he expects Griffin to be good to go when the Vikings open the regular season, but if he isn't, it won't be due to the lack of effort.

"Based on what I know, it sounds like that would be a little short," Childress said. "We'll see. He's certainly giving himself every opportunity. Every time I go down there (rehabbing at Winter Park) he's there."

The waiting will be hard on Griffin and the most difficult part of his rehab process may still be lying in front of him, but Griffin said he is focused on doing everything he can to assist in hastening that process. He may not know exactly when that date will be, but is certain that when the day comes he will know it.

"I'm going to be patient," Griffin said. "I'm not going to try to rush anything and my leg will tell me when it's time to go."

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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