Chase Minnifield ready to produce after injury
A year after a torn ACL suffered in minicamp ended his rookie season before it ever started, Redskins cornerback Chase Minnifield says he'll be ready to compete for a job in the team’s crowded secondary when training camp begins July 25 in Richmond.
Minnifield received medical clearance earlier this month, then joined OTAs on June 5 and participated in every other practice through last week’s mandatory minicamp. And although he was somewhat limited, the 24-year-old former UVa star managed to impress the coaching staff with what he was able to do.
“You can tell he’s not 100-percent yet, but once he gets there, you can tell he’s another [player] who’s been around football his whole life with his father and everything,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said, referring to Minnifield’s dad, Frank, who earned four Pro Bowl appearances as a defensive back for the Browns. “He’s got football instincts and you can see that right now, even when he’s not moving at 100-percent.”
Those instincts were on display in team drills last Tuesday as Minnifield turned to run with a wide receiver, tracked a deep pass, hauled the ball in over his shoulder for an interception, then raced down the sideline for a sizeable return.
“It’s always nice to get your hands on the ball,” said Minnifield, who added that he’s taking nothing for granted after the ordeal he’s been through. He had microfacture surgery on his right knee in January 2012, causing him to slide off draft boards around the NFL. Then, after signing in Washington as an undrafted free agent, he suffered a torn ACL in the same knee on the last day of Redskins’ minicamp. As a result, Minnifield required a third surgery on his right knee; he also damaged his ACL as a high school senior.
“Just the happiness of being able to play every day, to play the game – it’s not guaranteed,” he said. “I’m just happy to come out here and make it through another practice healthy. That’s just a blessing right here.”
Staying healthy after three procedures on the same knee will, of course, be a critical factor in whether Minnifield's got a future in the NFL. More immediately, though, he’ll need to use his instincts and athleticism to snag a job in a crowded Washington secondary.
As it stands right now, veterans DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and E.J. Biggers as well as second round pick David Amerson appear to be the only cornerbacks who are locks to make the 53-man roster. If that’s indeed the case, Minnifield, Richard Crawford, and Jerome Murphy will be battling for one spot. The Redskins kept five cornerbacks in 2012. Minnifield, however, could also be assigned to the practice squad.
“He’s ready to compete,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “I really liked him last year; it was just a shame in the last practice that he had an injury. …The doctors [determine] when he’s ready, and they feel like he’s ready to go. He’s worked extremely hard to get himself in great shape. And him coming back, just in the first couple of days, he’s been very impressive. It doesn’t look like there’s been any setback where he’s favoring anything whatsoever. That’s why I’m excited. Now he’s got five weeks to keep on getting better and do what he needs to make our football team.”
Getting back on the field this month for a handful of OTA practices, Minnifield said, was important for his confidence, even if he was operating a less than 100-percent.
“I just want to make it to training camp and put my best foot forward,” he said. “I’m not at my best right now. I have to tone up on my technique. This is the first time I’ve gone against NFL receivers since last year in minicamp. So I’m just getting my feet back in the water.”
Now he’s got about a month a half to refine that technique, get into top physical condition and bury his head in the playbook.
“It’s going to be grind,” he said. “I’m going to go ‘all in’ for five weeks. Hopefully at the end of that, I’ll be ready.”