Vikings Cornerback Back from Brief Injury
Before the start of training camp, the Vikings had to put injured players on different lists. Linebacker Ryan Connelly and wideout Blake Proehl landed on the ‘PUP-list,’ the physically-unable-to-perform-list. Both are still recovering from their ACL tears, but the team could activate them at any point unless they have to go on injured reserve.
The other list was the NFI list. NFI is short for non-football injury. Cornerback Nate Hairston was the only player who had to be placed on that list. He experienced some tightness and was back on the practice field on Monday — essential news, especially for himself. Hairston has to fight against multiple players for a roster spot. He signed a deal with the Vikings in free agency for the veteran minimum. He’ll be a free agent once again next offseason.
Before he joined the Vikings, he played for the Broncos. That’s noteworthy because he worked there with the new Vikings defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell. Donatell was defensive coordinator in Denver under their former head coach, Vic Fangio. That’s probably why they wanted Hairston here. He already knows the system, and the defensive coaches obviously seem to think that he can provide help to the defensive backs room.
The Broncos had solid defensive backs, so Hairston didn’t start more than one game there. However, he still found a way to play snaps as a backup. He played 148 snaps last season on defense and over 200 for the special teams unit. Another thing that could help him make the roster. Most of his snaps came in the slot, but he can also play outside.
The Vikings are his fifth team in the league. In 2017, the Colts selected the cornerback in the fifth round. Minnesota, and general manager Rick Spielman, selected Danny Isidora and Rodney Adams in that round. After appearing in 27 games in two seasons in Indianapolis, including 11 starts, he moved on to the Jets. He played 13 games for the Jets and started six of them before he was cut in 2020. That’s when he came to the Broncos. He also had a short stint on the Ravens practice squad in 2020.
He probably has to beat out Chandon Sullivan for the spot in the slot or outside cornerbacks like Harrison Hand, Parry Nickerson, and Kris Boyd to make the final 53-man roster. Now that he’s back on the field, he has a chance to showcase his talents.
The defensive backs were among the biggest problems of the Vikings in the last two seasons, in which the team missed the postseason each year. New GM Adofo-Mensah re-signed Patrick Peterson, drafted Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans — and added Chandon Sullivan and Nate Hairston in free agency.
Especially Booth is emerging as a possible future star in training camp. His competitiveness is unmatched. After every play, he is jawing at the receiver who he covered. That’s nothing new. He did the same to college receivers. Doing it as a rookie against Justin Jefferson, however, is a different story. He has to back up his words if he doesn’t want to be a target of opponents.
Akayleb Evans, the other rookie cornerback, is an interesting prospect, too. He possesses the necessary speed and size to be a great cornerback. In addition to that, he instantly became a fan favorite. If he can be as good on the field as on Twitter, he’ll be a great player.
Both rookies have their spot on the roster already secured, so Hairston has to win against Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand, Tye Smith, and Parry Nickerson. Boyd was a rotational player in recent years, but his performances weren’t always great, and the new regime has no ties with him. He could be a surprise cut.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt