Cedric Griffin (Kevin Brown/Viking Update)
Cedric Griffin returned to the practice field, even as Bryant McKinnie was held out of the first training camp practice. The first practice was a sloppy affair, which was to be expected, but it was also noted for the “sober” remembrance of the late Korey Stringer.
While one Viking returned from injury in quick order, another one was sidelined for undisclosed reasons that might have had to do with conditioning.
Cornerback Cedric Griffin returned to the practice field on a limited basis Monday for the first time since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on Oct. 11 last year.
“This is football and injuries happen all the time, so I'm not excited about anything. This is part of my job. I love playing football, and I'm just glad to be out there for sure,” said the even-keeled Griffin, who usually downplays injuries.
But his return to action, even if it is on a limited basis, is all the more impressive considering he tore the ACL in his other knee in the NFC Championship Game following the 2009 season and returned to action for the third regular-season game of 2010 just eight months later.
This time around, Griffin is back on the practice field nine months after the injury, although he isn’t likely to participate in at least the first preseason game or two. He wouldn’t say if he will be ready for the Vikings’ regular-season opener on Sept. 11, but for now the Vikings are holding him out tackling situations.
“You know, you adjust, the other knee compared to the other one,” he said. “I know I'm ready physically as well as emotionally, and as far as my confidence as well.”
After being inactive for the first two games last year, Griffin returned to action and started his first two games back before suffering his second knee injury in 10 months.
“Cedric is a key component to our defense and to our team. It was a tremendous loss in that Jets game when we lost him a year ago,” Frazier said. “And the same thing when we were in the championship game and went into overtime without him. … He's a key part of what we're trying to get done on defense to improve. We've got our fingers crossed and hoping he'll make it back.
Meanwhile, left tackle Bryant McKinnie was the one on the non-football-injury list as camp opened. He and Frazier declined to go into detailed, but it could be a conditioning issue.
“Because I have some issues with my something ... I just got some issues,” McKinnie said. “… My conditioning would help me, will be better for me.”
Frazier said McKinnie wasn’t being held out of practice because he restructured his contract or failed a physical.
“Neither one. He’s on NFI and we’re going to take a look at some things and just try to get him where we need him to be. But Bryant’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine,” Frazier said. “We’ve just got to go through some things and get him ready for the things that are ahead.
Because of the lockout, Sunday was the first time Frazier had seen McKinnie since January, he said.
Right guard Anthony Herrera started camp on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list while he recovers from his ACL surgery.
The lockout also seems to have affected the quality of the first training camp practice.
With veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb on the sidelines until Thursday, per rules of the new collective bargaining agreement dealing with players that have signed new contracts, the quarterback reps were split between Joe Webb (two NFL starts), rookie Christian Ponder and first-year player Rhett Bomar. The results looked more like the start of a minicamp than training camp.
“I think that's a good analogy. It's similar to an OTA [organized team activity] practice. In fact, that's how it was described to us when we looked at what we could and couldn't do in this first day of practice, along with Day 2 and Day 3,” Frazier said. “It's similar to the way an OTA practice would be run. Of course, Day 4 we get the pads on, which you wouldn't be able to do in OTAs. So that's about as close to [a comparison] as you could use.”
Not surprisingly, Webb looked the most comfortable of the young quarterbacks, but there were numerous off-target passes, especially in the early portions of practice.
Frazier didn’t even have a full-team, offense-vs.-defense period of practice, which meant Jared Allen didn’t get a chance to see the quarterbacks in action, but he was still asked about the “sloppy” practice.
“I thought it was great because we didn't really have a chance to be sloppy. We weren't in any team situations,” Allen said. “It was more just kind of going through things individually to see where everyone was at.”
Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of former Vikings right tackle Korey Stringer, one of the favorites among his teammates. The affable big man collapsed after a training camp practice due to heat stroke and died in the early morning hours at a Mankato hospital.
The Vikings observed a moment of silence before practice for Stringer and a purple “77” was painted in the middle of the main practice field commemorating his retired jersey number.
“We just wanted our players to take a moment to remember Korey [Stringer], a guy who was affable and loved by so many,” Frazier said. “…Everyone misses him and wishes he could come out and practice today, but in a way I felt like he was there today. Just having his number there on the field and painted, I just feel like he lives on in a number of ways through the pride our players have and a lot of people miss him.”
The only current Viking on the team back then was tight end Jim Kleinsasser, who stood in front of the team and talked about the affable big man that teammates called “Special K.”
“I loved that guy. His comedy, just his humor, he brought you up in the middle of training camp,” Kleinsasser said. “He was just a great guy. A big guy, but just a big teddy bear. I don't think there's a better teammate you could have.”
“… Every year, we come here and we see the plaque by the tree and we think about it. This being the first practice and the 10-year anniversary, it's something you think about.”
Frazier said the team was touched by Kleinsasser’s remembrances.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.