Griffin nears return
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MANKATO, Minn. (AP) -- Cedric Griffin has the rehabilitation program for a torn anterior cruciate ligament down pat.
After working his way back from perhaps the most common debilitating injury for a player at his position, Griffin was given another challenge last season. He had to do it all over again, this time on the other knee.
"That's a tough injury, especially for a cornerback with all the running and cutting we have to do," said Minnesota Vikings teammate Antoine Winfield. "But I know that if anyone can do it, it's Griff. He's the hardest working man in America. I mean, that guy trains, and I'm glad to see him out there."
Griffin signed a long-term contract extension before the 2009 season and led the team with four interceptions, turning in his most well-rounded performance as a pro since being drafted in the second round out of Texas in 2006. During the NFC championship game, though, he tore the ACL in his left knee and wasn't cleared to return until the third game of the 2010 season.
Voted by his teammates as the Vikings' winner of the annual Ed Block Courage Award for his effort, Griffin went down again in just his second game back. This time, his right knee was ripped up. So back to the grind he went, first healing from the reconstructive surgery and then strengthening the joint and the surrounding muscles to the point where he's been able to participate in almost all of the activities during practice this month.
Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier said he'll hold Griffin out of the team's first preseason game Saturday at Tennessee, but considering he returned in nine months the first time. he's on track to be in the starting lineup for the regular season opener at San Diego on Sept. 11, which would be almost 11 months after the most recent injury. Just as middle linebacker E.J. Henderson essentially wrote the team's manual on how to rehabilitate from a broken femur, Griffin has become the poster boy for the ACL recovery.
"It's a different era. When I tore my ACL that was a career-ending injury. Guys were not coming back," said Frazier, a former cornerback for Chicago who was hurt in the Super Bowl after the 1985 season and never played again. "I remember the doctor when I was in the hospital telling me the surgery they were performing at that time -- a year later, it would be different. The whole procedure was going to be different, and that's just the way it was. Then I was in a cast for six weeks. They don't even cast you anymore. They start rehab prior to the surgery and then post-surgery they've already begun that constant movement, which is what you need to get that flexion back."
After 18 months of rehabilitation, Frazier's knee never regained his full range of motion, forcing him to focus on coaching to stay in football.
But Griffin has modern medicine and an inherent determination to thank for his rare near-feat, which will be complete whenever he plays in that first game.
"I know I'm ready physically as well as emotionally -- and as far as my confidence as well," he said. "I'm just glad to be back out here with my teammates and contributing during training camp."
That's about as forthcoming as Griffin has been, since training camp began last week at the Minnesota State University campus. He has brushed aside or attempted to downplay almost all questions from reporters about his recovery or his satisfaction or his mindset.
"There was no low point, man. This is football. Injuries are a part of this game," Griffin said. "If you get hurt, you get back up and continue to work hard. That's what I do. I work hard at what I do. I work hard for this team and for my family. I'm a hard worker, brother."
Apparently, he's hard enough of a worker to be in uniform and in his usual spot when the season formally begins. Griffin and Winfield should be the starters at cornerback with Chris Cook behind them. Husain Abdullah, Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford are vying for time as the safeties.
"I'm out there practicing with my team," Griffin said, "so whatever you'd like to take from that is what you can take from that."