Pain is defined in a number of ways, but for the sake of this article, we'll only touch on two such definitions. Dictionary.com describes pain as "physical suffering or distress, as due to injury, illness, etc." as well as "mental or emotional suffering or torment." On January 24th, 2010, the Minnesota Vikings suffered both.
Media focus has fallen heavily on quarterback Brett Favre in the aftermath of defeat by New Orleans’ finest in the NFC Championship game. Two teams of destiny collided and one stood victorious. Favre has been heralded as a screw-up by some and a downtrodden hero by others. Undeniably, ol' number four suffered both physical pain at the hands of Gregg Williams' defense and emotional pain as he ended yet another season on an interception.
The man stands at the center of a media circus. And what's the newest attraction under the big top? Brett Favre's plans for the 2010 season. It's 2009 all over again, folks, and it won't be gone until the first snap of the season.
For cornerback Cedric Griffin, the pain is just as bad if not worse. During New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas’ overtime kickoff return, Griffin suffered a torn ACL. A few plays and booth reviews later...and Griffin's pain grows. A dream season shattered in a 31-28 overtime loss.
Now begins the longest off-season of Griffin's career. Nine to 10 months of rehabbing a knee will undoubtedly land the Vikings starting CB on the PUP list to start the season. Whether or not he'll be able to rehab his knee and get back in shape to be a difference-maker prompts many questions for an already-struggling Vikings pass defense.
How does the Vikings staff fill the void of 78 tackles, four interceptions and three forced fumbles? It would seem with little experience and a great deal of hope.
Nickel and Dime
Vikings Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier may find some hope for 2010 from the frustrations of 2009. When cornerback Antoine Winfield missed six-and-a-half games in '09 with a fractured foot, the team found a quick fix in a turnstile of CBs consisting of Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah, and rookie Asher Allen.
Through rotating players, the corners vacating Winfield's spot were kept fresh, managing to keep defenses from taking any real advantage of the injury. Little did they know, this experience for the three CBs would prove extremely valuable a season later.
Benny Sapp, a sixth-year starter out of Northern Iowa, could play the biggest role in this ordeal. Having the most experience of the three as the team's nickel package CB, Sapp's starting experience will make it easier to have him start in Griffin's stead. Assuming Sapp can cut back on his pension for penalties, he is the best viable option with 44 tackles and two forced fumbles this past season.
Many fans will tell you that Karl Paymah is the weakest link in the group thanks to poor performance in the home game against the Baltimore Ravens. Twenty-seven tackles with one forced fumble and zero interceptions does little to impress the masses, despite being a four-year veteran whose true strength is on special teams.
The one player primed to benefit most from all of this is the rookie, Asher Allen. While limited in playing time during the season, Allen made a concerted effort to make plays for the highlight reel. Finishing the season with 27 tackles, just like Paymah, the Georgia alum gave hope to fans with a forced fumble and interception during the season. Having lacked any real play-makers at the position, Allen's playing time next season could be extremely beneficial to Frazier's defense.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, it's a long six months to heal the pain.