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Vikings rookie cornerback Waynes showing growing pains

By Chris Tomasson St. Paul Pioneer Press CANTON, Ohio -- Anthony Barr started his first Vikings regular-season game as an NFL rookie. It would be a big surprise if Trae Waynes ends up doing the same. Barr, a linebacker, was taken with the No. 9 p...

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(Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports) Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes looks on during the Hall of Fame Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

By Chris Tomasson

St. Paul Pioneer Press

CANTON, Ohio - Anthony Barr started his first Vikings regular-season game as an NFL rookie. It would be a big surprise if Trae Waynes ends up doing the same.

Barr, a linebacker, was taken with the No. 9 pick in the 2014 draft and made an immediate impact. Waynes, a cornerback selected No. 11 this year, is finding it tough adjusting to the NFL.

In Sunday night’s 14-3 win over Pittsburgh in the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Waynes had three penalties, although one was declined. Pro Football Focus had him as Minnesota’s lowest-rated player on defense, minus-4.6.

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Running second team at left cornerback behind veteran Terence Newman, Waynes had designs on a starting role. He might have tempered those expectations a bit.

“Anything can happen, but (Newman’s) a great player,” Waynes said after Sunday’s game. “So if I don’t (start), I’m fine with that. I’ll just continue to learn from him.”

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said it’s all about learning for the rookie from Michigan State, whose play in training camp has been uneven. Zimmer is glad Minnesota has five preseason games, one more than usual.

Waynes played 54 snaps Sunday, tied for the most for a defensive player.

“What I wanted to do was not take him out,” Zimmer said. “I want to find out what kind of toughness he has when things happen like that, and you get a couple of penalties on you, how are you going to fight back? How are you going to respond? And I thought he did a nice job with those things.

“He’s just got to learn some of the technical things about the NFL. But athletically, and the type of kid he is, he’s going to be fine.”

Waynes was penalized in the second quarter for defensive holding but it was declined. Later in the quarter he was penalized for pass interference, and in the third quarter for holding.

“That’s part of the game,” he said. “You’re going to get penalized in the game. You just have to have a short memory and keep playing.”

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Waynes had expected to be nervous for his first game but said that wasn’t the case. He didn’t deny, though, that it can be difficult to make the adjustment at cornerback from college to the NFL.

“If you mess up, everybody sees it,” Waynes said. “It’s not like other positions, where you can make a mistake and not everybody notices. But playing corner, a lot of times you’re on an island; so if you mess up, our coach in college always said, ‘Don’t end up on SportsCenter.’ ”

Waynes was referring to Harlon Barnett, a former Vikings defensive back who was the Spartans’ secondary coach. Barnett is now co-defensive coordinator.

Waynes has followed his good friend and mentor Darqueze Dennard, the No. 24 pick by Cincinnati in 2014, as the second straight Michigan State cornerback taken in the first round of the draft. Dennard never started as a rookie.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

 

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