When cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. described what he feels like is a "perfect fit" with the Vikings defense and coordinator Brian Flores, the quick-twitch, 25-year-old defender wasted no time getting to the point.
"I heard he likes to play man [coverage]," Murphy said during Thursday's introductory news conference at TCO Performance Center. "That's something I like to do as a corner – that mind-set, locking things up."
Murphy, the former Cardinals starter who agreed to a two-year deal this week, will help the Vikings' defensive transformation as one of at least four new starters following the departures of cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Flores has said he plans to implement aggressive and morphing game plans, which included a flurry of blitzes and man-to-man coverage when he was the Dolphins head coach.
"Guard who's in front of you and lock that person up," Murphy said.
Murphy signed up for the shift in Minnesota, where the Vikings' 31st-ranked defense last season was criticized for often being too passive. He is tasked with filling big shoes in a secondary currently returning only four corners from last season; the most experienced, Akayleb Evans, made just two starts as a rookie last year.
Murphy became an immediate fixture in Arizona as a 2019 second-round pick out of Washington. As a rookie, he deflected 10 passes while starting every game as an outside and slot cornerback. He moved around the secondary throughout four Cardinals seasons, peaking with four interceptions — two from the slot, per Pro Football Focus — in a standout 2021 campaign.
Last year, a back injury undercut him. He missed the last seven games, his longest absence since his 2017 season in college. Murphy had played 47 of 49 games to start his NFL career. He passed his Vikings physical and said Thursday he was 100% healthy.
"It's hard when you have to sit there and go through all the treatments and everything, just seeing your guys practice and compete on Sundays," Murphy said. "But it made me sit back and realize how grateful I am to play this game."
Upon making his free-agent decision, Murphy talked to two former Cardinals teammates, linebacker Jordan Hicks and Peterson, and former Arizona defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson. He said they all endorsed the Vikings under head coach Kevin O'Connell.
"[Robertson] was just like, 'Man, you're going to go up there with a great group of guys who actually care about their players,'" Murphy said. "All those little details and stuff I was looking at, he kind of answered for me."
Murphy was asked about the NFLPA's leaguewide survey in which the Vikings were voted No. 1 by players asked to grade their teams on eight categories including nutrition, training room facilities, weight room and support staff.
The Cardinals ranked near the bottom, with players reporting they were charged by payroll deduction for weeknight dinners at the team's facilities.
"I think it's free upstairs, so I'm good now," Murphy said. "It's all-you-can-eat now."