The past six months have been a roller coaster ride for new Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd.
In December of this past year, the Minnesota native watched as his career with the Arizona Cardinals unraveled in front of his eyes following a well-documented DUI arrest. Without a team for the first time since Arizona selected him with the No. 13 overall pick in 2012, Floyd found himself at a bit of a career crossroad and at the mercy of the NFL waiver wire.
He was passed over by nearly every team, but the New England Patriots ultimately claimed the former Notre Dame standout not long after his release from the Cardinals, presenting him with an immediate opportunity to return to the gridiron and prove the player that was once regarded as the successor to Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona not only still exists but is prepared to grill this notion into the minds of those who question his character and ability to change his personal NFL narrative.
Floyd was used sparingly during his two-month tenure in New England that concluded with confetti raining down on him and his teammates, but his lone receiving touchdown from quarterback Tom Brady epitomized the fire that burns ferociously deep inside the wide receiver and may one day be looked back upon as foreshadowing for an epic redemption story set in Minnesota.
“I just thought it’d all work out at some point,” Floyd said. “I’ve just been down here [in Arizona] working out, training every day and hoping for an opportunity like this to happen.
“It all worked out, and I’m excited to get back up to Minnesota.”
“Michael Floyd … Floyd battling to get into the end zone … Floyd extends his body … for the touchdown. What a catch-and-run for Floyd! The newest Patriot hits pay dirt … Tony Lippett could not keep him out of the end zone.”
Floyd took the next big step toward silencing his doubters, revitalizing his image and reaching the potential that made him a Top-15 selection in 2012 on Wednesday afternoon, as the Minnesota native and Cretin-Derham Hall High School alumnus agreed on a 1-year, $1.5 million contract with bonus escalators that could increase his earnings to $6 million in 2017 if certain standards are met.
“No, there’s no pressure,” Floyd said of playing for his hometown team. “I’m just really excited to be back home. It’s a big financial difference, not having to fly people down and just having my family there.”
Sam Bradford’s newest weapon is currently paying for the consequences of his arrest in the form of a lengthy house arrest term. The court order does allow Floyd to leave his home for workout and training purposes, however, and the soon-to-be seventh-year wide receiver has been making the most of this special condition. He spends much of his time building up his 6-foot-3, 220-pound physical frame and emphasizing technical improvement, which has reportedly yielded visible results:
New #Vikings WR Michael Floyd did his time and was training in AZ. Said to be in excellent shape — mind and body — for his hometown team
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 10, 2017
More important than his physical improvement, however, is Floyd’s increased urgency and passionate approach to optimizing what could potentially be his final chance to continue a once-promising NFL career. Notre Dame’s all-time receiving touchdown leader is well aware of the situation he nows finds himself in, but a motivated Floyd will not be slowed by spiteful internet users and his past transgressions.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” he said. “Obviously, there are a lot of people that doubt you, think you’re a bad guy; everyone has their own opinion. It’s really the people who actually know you and really know who you are [who matter].[quote_center]“We all makes mistakes, but it’s about what you do next.”[/quote_center]
Floyd, who will not join his new teammates in Minnesota until training camp, is mentally set for the ultimate redemption opportunity of excelling in front of a fanbase who has followed his career from completely unstoppable five-star high school recruit at Cretin-Derham Hall, to nationally-recognized receiving weapon at Notre Dame to 1,000-yard receiver in Bruce Arians’ vertical passing scheme in Arizona.
In addition to the perk of a built-in local following, Floyd should find comfort in playing alongside two of his teammates at Notre Dame — 2016 breakout tight end Kyle Rudolph and criminally underrated safety Harrison Smith.
“[Rudolph and Smith] have been the same kind of people since we were in college together,” Floyd said. “We talk all the time. [They are] nice, genuine people that want nothing but the best for you, and I’m just really excited to play with them.”
He has already spoken with Smith about joining him in Minnesota and received a warm welcome on Twitter from Rudolph on Wednesday evening:
— Kyle Rudolph (@KyleRudolph82) May 11, 2017
While Floyd clearly values his relationships with the two Vikings standouts, he does not expect for either player to police his off-field decision-making — something he plans to do on his own.
“We’re all grown men here,” he said. “I think, in this business, in this old thing, you don’t get that many opportunities. This is another opportunity for me, and, by the grace of God, I get to come down to my hometown and play football and do the things I love.
[quote_center]”You don’t get many opportunities, I plan to make the best of what I have.”[/quote_center]
Floyd certainly has the natural talent and physical gifts to make good on his intentions. His dominant physical frame — one of said gifts that the receiver actively looks to emphasize on a snap-to-snap basis — has made him an extremely dangerous weapon in contained spaces. Whether it’s moving the chains or finding the end zone, which he achieved on 23 separate occasions in 47 starts for the Cardinals, Floyd has flashed the potential to develop into a game-breaking talent as both a vertical threat and a one-on-one mismatch inside the 20-yard line.
“Using my body, using what God gave me,” he said. “and just putting my body between the defender and the ball, that’s one of my favorite traits — just being physical.”
His notable physicality extends beyond the pass-catching element of his position, however, as Floyd is an “old school” receiver in the sense that he sticks his blocks with authority. This part of his game was recognized nationally during his short tenure in New England, as he connected on a calamitous open-field block of Miami Dolphins defensive back Tony Lippett — who coincidentally is also the defender Floyd bullied his way through in the prior clip — to clear the way for a crowd-silencing 77-yard touchdown by Julian Edelman.
Vikings fans may remember a different block involving Floyd, however, on a play that the then-Cardinal torched Minnesota’s defense for six points on a 42-yard catch-and-run set up by his offseason training partner, Larry Fitzgerald.
Floyd was not the one laying the wood on this particular play, but looking back on the snap two years later, he believes he would have also nailed the open-field block had his and Fitzgerald’s roles been switched:
“Fitz made a great play there, but obviously one of us was a bit off on the play,” Floyd said with a laugh. “But, we made it work — we definitely made it work. Fitz is the guy who sprung it out for me, but either way, if I was blocking there, I think the same result would have happened.”
Simply put, blocking is a big piece of Floyd’s skill set, not just an afterthought as it is for many contemporary NFL wide receivers. He takes great pride in this ability while also feeling responsible for being a difference-making blocker due to his size and strength.
“Being a bigger wide receiver, you’ve got to have the all-around game,” Floyd said. “Run-blocking for your teammates and, when you have good backs in the backfield, you want to be that guy who changes a run play from going just 10 yards to going 60 yards to the house.”
Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who praised 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell for his blocking prowess this past season, will certainly aim to employ Floyd’s physicality both as a blocker and in situations when he can dominate the catch point. How his role with the Vikings will unravel specifically, nobody, not even Floyd himself, has any clue at this juncture.
But, the Minnesota high school football legend is ecstatic about the prospect and is likely counting down the days until he may officially begin rewriting the story of who Michael Floyd truly is both as a football player and human being.
“I have absolutely no idea [what Shurmur’s plans are],” Floyd said. “But, I am definitely excited.”
BJ Reidell is a Minnesota Vikings reporter for Vikings Territory (.com) and can be found on Twitter @RobertReidell.