Knee injuries are among the most debilitating, especially for a football player. So much is required of an athlete's knees as they attempt to put themselves ahead of the competition.
Chase Minnifield knows this as well as anybody.
It's understandable that he wanted to run the 40 at his pro day. He needed to show the watching world that he had fully recovered from his microfracture surgery and could make an effective contribution to an NFL team in his rookie year.
However, his knee had other ideas, and his pace—he boasted a 4.4 time in his junior year—simply was not there. He limped in at 4.63 and promptly fell out of the draft.
Speaking to Garrison Cole at the Washington Post, Jim Haslett was less understanding: “He should’ve never ran the 40," Haslett said. "We were happy to get him as an undrafted rookie.”
The second part of that quote may have been said with a kind of selfish glee, but the first part rings completely true. Minnifield must have known that he wasn't back to his best, yet he ran it anyway. To make his eventual failure even worse, he touted himself as being fully fit before the draft.
Speaking to NEPatriotsDraft.com, Minnifield prepared his interviewer—scout Mike Loyko—for something special.
On the combine: “I'm not going to predict any numbers, but I will say it’s going to be a good showing.”
On the draft: "My expectation is to go in the first round.”
On the severity of his injury and operation: “I was experiencing minor knee pain, but I'm back running and I feel fine now.”
These words were untrue, and they came back to haunt him. He learned the hard way that his body would sometimes let him down, and his poor performance in the 40 affected his draft stock.
Afterwards, he was forced to backtrack and state that he was actually only 80 percent fit at the time of his pro day and that the surgery he underwent was to have him ready for the beginning of football season, not before.
The reason for all this scene-setting is to illustrate Minnifield’s lesson in humility. Prior to the draft, he would tell DraftSeason that he faced no receivers in college that stood out, because he was able to cope with any challenge that was presented.
Bear in mind that he played against Hakeem Nicks, Demaryius Thomas and Darius Heyward Bey. There is a case to be made that perhaps he should have shown a little respect where it was due.
College athletes need to try every tactic possible in order to get noticed—and arrogance will often do that—but when his results failed to back up his mouth, Minnifield was forced to reassess.
Compare his pre-draft interviews with a recent one, again with Garrison Cole: “I’m feeling pretty good out here," Minnifield said. "I just thank God for giving me health; if I’m healthy I’m all right.”
Along with this new-found humility, his attitude in OTAs showed that he is now letting his performances do the talking, with almost every daily report mentioning a big play from Minnifield. Raheem Morris is remaking the Redskins secondary, and Minnifield is doing everything he can to be a part of it.
Going undrafted certainly gives him the grievance that spurs on so many players who suffered the same fate, and his father Frank will also be of excellent guidance to him in this area.
Minnifield’s strength on the field stems from his understanding of the game—something he also credits to his father (per NFL.com).
He played in a variety of schemes at Virginia, but he really excels in zone coverage, making him a perfect fit for Shanahan’s scheme. He reads the quarterback very well, has solid hands and understands receiving routes, which is likely a byproduct of his spell as a wide out in high school.
This also enables him to make a lot of interceptions by timing his jumps and taking the ball at its highest point, as evidenced by his picking of a Rex Grossman throw during minicamps.
Redskins fans may crow that this isn't much of a feat, but he's breaking up passes from Robert Griffin III as well. John Keim of the Washington Examiner noted that he's also having no trouble covering the starting receivers, keeping pace with Pierre Garçon and smothering him for space and time.
It's still a long shot—he'll need to add some weight to his 185-pound frame to comfortably cover large NFL receivers—and he's still very much the underdog behind DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and Cedric Griffin. But Minnifield has already shown that he has everything it takes to make an impact.
Talking to Rich Campbell at the Washington Times, Minnifield summed up his approach since being drafted by the Redskins:
I think if I just go out there and do what they ask me to do, have no mental mistakes and play the game I always play, Ill be fine. Not necessarily standing out, but just doing the right things.
In the end, can you really ask any more of anyone?