The Vikings signed veteran Lito Sheppard to a one-year, $2 million contract in April in part because he had a familiarity with the team's defensive scheme and in part because he could serve as the potential starter at right corner if Cedric Griffin (ACL) is not ready to start the season.
Sheppard, 29, was a regular at the Vikings' Organized Team Activities this spring as he tried to re-adjust to being in a system that was similar to what he played in with Philadelphia from 2002 to 2008.
“I think I’m about 80-85 percent in the system right now as far as the different techniques and what I needed to work on to make that transition," Sheppard said following the Vikings minicamp this month. "I feel comfortable with my progress at this point, but there’s still a lot of work to be done and I’m looking forward to it.”
Sheppard played last season in a different defense with the New York Jets but was released in March so the Jets could avoid paying him a $10 million bonus. Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was a defensive assistant with the Eagles during Sheppard's rookie season, so it's not surprising some of the same principles that applied in Philadelphia now apply in Minnesota.
So what are the differences between the two defenses?
“It’s more the different techniques inside the calls," Sheppard said. "And being so removed from it, it’s just about remembering some of those smaller things, along with some of the tweaks they made with the defenses. So, along with that, and different terminology, I’ve picked up a lot of that but there are still some little things that I can get better at.”
Sheppard said that he got reps at both left and right corner during the offseason workouts but was not asked to play inside in the nickel. Sheppard said he is comfortable playing either outside spot but is not a candidate to move inside. The battle for that job is expected to mainly be a competition between Benny Sapp and Asher Allen.
Sheppard was not part of the Vikings' run to the NFC title game last season, but he is optimistic that a repeat of that success is possible.