The talk of training camp and the early portion of the preseason has been more about who is returning to the field of play rather than those still trying to work their way back. E.J. Henderson's return to the field following a devastating leg injury has been nothing short of miraculous. The "will he or won't he" debate over Brett Favre hung over the Vikings like a cloud until news came earlier this week that he will try to give it a go for a 20th season. In recent days, the migraine woes of Percy Harvin had grabbed the headlines.
But, little has been said about Cedric Griffin and his attempt to return from a torn ACL. From the time he launched his helmet on the turf of the Superdome as he grasped his knee in pain during the opening kickoff of overtime in the NFC Championship Game, his NFL future has been on hold.
After having surgery a couple of weeks after the NFC title game, Griffin has been working as hard or harder than any player on the team. He has been at the team facility every day, but instead of working with his teammates on schemes, he's working with the medical staff and the trainers. While Griffin said he misses being out on the field, he said everyone is happy with how quickly he is making his return to action and how well the healing is coming along.
"I believe the training staff is happy with my progress," Griffin said. "I'm happy with the confidence level I have making cuts. That was my biggest concern. All is good so far and I'm very hopeful that things will continue to head in that direction."
Griffin was on display after practice again on Friday, going through sudden change-of-direction drills and looked good.
While many players could get hung up on the additions the Vikings made as a precaution to his recovery – the team signed free agent Lito Sheppard and used its first pick in the 2010 draft to take Chris Cook – Griffin said it doesn't bother him in the least that the Vikings have stocked up at his position. As he views it, when he is 100 percent and returns to the field, the Vikings will be as deep at the cornerback position as they have been during Griffin's time in the NFL.
"I'm not frustrated at all," Griffin said. "We've got some playmakers in the secondary. I'm happy for the guys who are getting some good work in. It's creating depth that we're going to need during the season. Other guys are getting a chance to get a lot of reps and game time in the preseason. Down the line, that's going to help all of us with those guys getting more chances make plays."
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier made a point in the initial days of training camp to all but rule Griffin out of the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against the Saints. Griffin was made aware of those remarks and has used them as motivation. He knows the timeline on such injuries is from nine to 12 months for complete healing, which would put him on a table of anywhere from late September to December. Yet, he remains convinced he will be on the short end of that time frame.
"My goal and my hope is to be ready for the start of the regular season," Griffin said. "I want to be able to go back down to New Orleans and help our team win. I'm working really hard. I'm doing two-a-days just like everyone else, just trying to get my conditioning right. I'm happy with where my strength is at. That's all good. It's just about getting back in football shape right now."
While his teammates prepare for their Sunday night nationally televised game with the 49ers, Griffin remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list. His rehab continues in earnest. He has been working since March to get to the point he's at now and the arrival of Favre has only fueled his dedication to getting healed and back on the field.
"You can see how the excitement level has gone up," Griffin said. "We want to finish what we've been building to the last couple of years. We thought we were going to do it last year and there are high expectations for this year. I want to be a part of that and contribute however I can. That's what has kept me working hard."
So when will we see Griffin come off the PUP list and get back into the game? He's wondering the same question.
"The training staff has told me there's a plan," Griffin said. "There has been since I started rehab. They want me to be at a certain point at a certain time and I've been able to get there so far so good. I can only control the things that are within my power. It's not going to be my decision. It will be Sug (head trainer Eric Sugarman) and the doctors that say when I'm ready. They want me to be able to cut loose without any concerns about re-injuring it. I'm hoping that will come soon, but they're making that call."
It would be poetic justice if he could make his return at the scene of the crime that robbed him of the last nine months of his life. While it may be a long shot given the timing of the injury and the standard recovery time, Griffin isn't lost on the irony of making his return to active duty back in the heart of the bayou.
"It would be great if that is where I can come back," Griffin said with a smile. "That was where it ended for me. It's as good a place as any to get started back up again. Hopefully, my progress the next couple of weeks will help make that happen."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Griffin has his goal
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