Asked in his introductory news conference Friday what he loves about playing safety, Vikings first-round pick Lewis Cine pointed to an aspect of the position that's sometimes controversial, occasionally costly and undeniably central to the job.

"It's the fact that I can be all-out physical and just do me on the football field and be OK with it," Cine said. "You think about it. Football is a violent game. A lot of things you do in football you can't do in the outside world or you'll get arrested, so I love that fact. I can just enjoy the game and be OK with that, and then once I'm off the football field, just be calm, laid-back me."

Later, the 22-year-old offered an addendum.

"I want to play the game safe," he said. "Let me say that for sure because now at this level last thing I want to happen is to be fined. NFL fines people a pretty penny, so I want to be in the game, one; I want to not get fined, two; and I want to be dependable to my team, three. The way to do that is to practice the safe way, the right way to tackle and bring people down."

The line the Georgia product will try to walk in the NFL — that of bringing a physical element to the Vikings' defense while complying with ever-changing rules — is one Harrison Smith has carefully tried to traverse over a 10-year career that has sent him to six Pro Bowls. Whether Cine is a running mate for Smith now, a replacement for the 33-year-old later or a combination of both, the Vikings hope their first-round pick can bring the same combination of mental acuity and physical prowess they've enjoyed for a decade since they drafted Smith 29th overall.

"I give his coaches at Georgia a lot of credit. He has been very well-coached," Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said. "I think he will fit in with our defensive staff here. I think this morning we just were watching plays from his season and kind of comparing them, and I would throw out some things from our defense, and I think I heard the word 'why' two or three times. We want players that want to understand not only what we're asking them to do, but why we're asking them to do it. For a young player, day one, after a really early morning flight to come in and already be asking that question, I think we're off to a great start."

Cine, whom the Vikings drafted 32nd overall after trading back 20 spots in the first round, ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, and built his reputation with hits like the one he laid on 225-pound Alabama running back Brian Robinson in the national championship game.

But on Friday, he described himself as a "problem-solver," who'd won a high school championship in Massachusetts before moving to Texas and playing for a championship team where Deion Sanders was the offensive coordinator. The Hall of Fame cornerback — and pupil of former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer — wasn't shy about telling Cine what he thought.

"Yeah, he was hard," Cine said. "Old-school. Real old-school. [He would always say] 'You got to do it. You got to do it.' Always had a lecture. It comes from a great place, and that's why I'm thankful for him. really."

His upbringing, as well as his time playing for Kirby Smart's Georgia defense that had five players drafted in the first round on Thursday night, seems to have conditioned Cine for what's next.

"I've won in different places, so I kind of understand what it takes," he said. "It takes sacrifice. It takes being unselfish. It takes the late nights, waking up early even though you don't want to. But, it's all for a cause. Everybody wants to win, and when everyone wins, everyone is happy. So I know what it takes. I'm ready. I'm prepared for that."

He'll start his career in a defensive backs room with Smith and Patrick Peterson. If Cine — the first draft pick of new Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's career — is to prove the front office right for its decision to trade back from 12 to 32, he'll do it by trying to emulate Smith.

"I've watched him a whole lot," Cine said. "The fact that I'm going to be learning from him, taking information from him, learning his tips and pointers has got me excited. From what I hear he is a very laid-back guy. Real excited about football. That's what he loves. He is a film junkie, and I see the same as myself, so I think we're going to get along real well."