The Vikings have five former Minnesota Gophers on their offseason roster. Three of them are rookies, but receiver Logan Payne, who officially has two years of NFL experience, is hoping to continue employment in the league.
After signing as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks, Payne spent two years there, starting two games in 2008, before tearing his medial collateral ligament.
"Unfortunately I got hurt in the third game there, but that's football so you've just got to come out. I got healthy, I'm faster than I ever was. I feel great and I'm happy to be here," Payne said after a recent practice at Winter Park.
He had other opportunities, but he chose the Vikings because he saw a chance to compete for a roster spot.
"They've got some good receivers here, but at the bottom half of the receiving corps there's some competition and that's the way you've got to approach it," he said. "You don't count the numbers; you just come out here and compete every day."
He's been doing that since entering the league, but job security hasn't come easy. After two years of Seattle, he was re-signed to the Seahawks practice squad to start the 2009 season but lasted only three weeks before being released.
He had tryouts with New England and Minnesota, and he ended up spending time with Detroit and Kansas City.
"Both those teams had a bunch of coaching changes, so that's the way this league is. Whenever you get the opportunity with somebody, you've got to take advantage of it," said the 6-foot-2, 208-receiver.
"… We kind of looked at all the options and they've got a great team up here, obviously, and great coaching staff. I was happy to come back to Minnesota … kind of a home away from home for me. I'm comfortable up here and it's a great opportunity."
Part of that comfort level is derived from the fact that Payne got to know the West Coast offense during his days in Seattle. From the Vikings' perspective, that was important.
"What you see from Logan is the familiarity he has coming from a Seattle-type of West Coast system. I know he was in a couple of other camps, but at least he was exposed to that in a couple training camps and minicamp situations, so it's pretty seamless in his transition," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He understands what it takes to make a roster. … He understands the elements of having to contribute as a wide receiver that plays special teams, whether it's a gunner, whether it be in a return unit. He knows the merit of that. It's not just the pie-in-the-sky stuff where they say you have to do this and he is like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I don't do that.' He understands the importance of doing that."
After leading the Gophers with 59 receptions, 804 receiving yards and nine touchdown receptions in 2006, Payne has learned to do what it takes to keep his NFL dream alive.
"I love this game and I've been playing it my whole life. If I'm coming out here and I'm competing and I'm doing well and I'm performing – I'm mixing it with these guys and I know I can play – then the confidence is there," he said. "I'm going to keep playing as long as they'll let me play."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Payne keeps plugging along
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