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Cornerback Benny Sapp (22), in his previous stint with the Vikings. He was cut by the Dolphins after Week 1 this season.

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune file

Depleted Vikings have job for Sapp

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • November 16, 2011 - 10:23 PM

If what the Vikings need most right now is a blast of positive energy, it came through the locker room doors Wednesday in the form of a castoff cornerback with a bounce in his step.

Yep, Benny Sapp is back at Winter Park cracking jokes and flashing his vibrant smile. And for a 2-7 team coming off a humiliating 38-point loss in Green Bay, every ounce of enthusiasm should help.

So in that regard, it was no surprise Sapp's return was welcomed with open arms Wednesday.

He left Minnesota last in August 2010 via a trade with Miami.

"Words can't describe how happy I am to have him here and have him back," safety Jamarca Sanford said. "He was one of my best friends before he left. It hurt me when he left. To have him back, it's perfect. He's a guy who brings excitement and just brings fun and energy to the team."

If only exuberance was the lone thing the Vikings needed right now.

Instead, Sapp will play the role of duct tape for a secondary that's been blown to smithereens.

In tatters

Cornerback Antoine Winfield was placed on injured reserve Wednesday following surgery to repair his broken clavicle. Chris Cook remains on a leave of absence as he deals with his off-the-field legal drama. And safety Husain Abdullah still is clearing away the cobwebs after suffering his second concussion of the season Monday.

Now Carson Palmer and the Raiders are headed to Mall of America Field to take their shots against a defense that ranks 30th against the pass and has allowed 1,180 passing yards and 12 TDs since recording its last interception back in Week 5.

Sapp? At least he has familiarity with the Vikings, having played for them in 2008 and 2009. That counts for something.

"He's a great competitor; we know we're going to get that," Sanford said. "We've seen what he can do. It's not like it's a guy we're bringing in who'll need time to learn the system."

But before the good vibrations of this reunion skew reality, don't forget Sapp has spent his past nine Sundays at home and unemployed for a reason.

His last NFL action came Sept. 12 as a Dolphin when Miami was torched by Tom Brady, Wes Welker and the Patriots for 517 passing yards and four touchdowns. After the 38-24 loss, Sapp was immediately cut.

Waiting for a chance

As the ensuing weeks passed, he sunk to what he called "the lowest point of my career feeling-wise" and couldn't help but wonder if his playing days were finished.

"A whole month goes by and you turn into that couch potato a little bit," Sapp said. "You get discouraged."

For the past two months, Sapp says most of his training has come from coaching and working out with his 11-year-old son, Benny Sapp III.

No wonder he seemed so uncertain Wednesday when asked what his biggest challenge will be as he works into the Vikings' rotation.

"I don't know yet," he said. "It's been two months and I really haven't covered a receiver yet. So I really couldn't tell you. The only receiver I have been covering is an 11-year-old."

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made no promises that Sapp would play a significant role going forward. For now, he's a spare part slotted on the depth chart behind Cedric Griffin, Asher Allen and Marcus Sherels.

But Sapp does have eagerness on his side, now that his return to Minneapolis is official.

"Once you leave a place, you kind of feel like you did something wrong," he said. "You put yourself in a certain [mindset] where you think you will probably never see that situation again. And for this situation to come up, it's an honor."

Sapp also hopes his fresh energy can provide a tonic for a team sickened by a season filled with failure. He vows to brighten the mood with extra effort and his unique personality.

"You're playing a game," he said. "And when you're playing a game, you have to have different strategies. I might walk up to the line [of scrimmage] picking my nose. If [the quarterback] is not focused, that's his fault. I know what I'm doing. It's a game. So for the most part, you play it. And love it."

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