For the most part, first-round Vikings safety Lewis Cine has been working with the backups during training camp.
Second-year safety Cam Bynum has received the lion's share of first-team reps alongside Harrison Smith. But Cine knows "there's a place for me," whether as an immediate starter or a role player in a defense expected to feature five or even six defensive backs in subpackages under defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.
"Nothing is going to be handed to me," Cine said. "I'm going to have to work, and I definitely understand that. But I know there's a place for me on the defense. I know I'm going to contribute somewhere [on] defense and special teams."
Cine will likely be in the starting lineup on Sunday in Las Vegas, where the Vikings open the preseason against the Raiders. Smith, the six-time Pro Bowl player, is not expected to play as coach Kevin O'Connell could hold out or limit many starters.
Sunday will offer Cine, the 32nd overall pick, another chance to show coaches how he's adapted to the speed of opposing offenses and density of an NFL playbook compared to the University of Georgia. The atmosphere will be a little different than his last football game when the Bulldogs beat Alabama for a national title in front of 78,000 fans, but it'll still be the NFL.
"When I arrive there and it's showtime and the lights are on," Cine said, "it's going to hit me like, 'Wow, I'm really here.'"
The learning curve can be steep. Cine has started to grasp what he can and can't do against NFL quarterbacks — "You got to protect your teammates in terms of staying deep" — while also deciphering his assignments against professional offenses. Coaches have seen a work in progress, according to Donatell. How quickly Cine adapts mentally could determine how often he's playing in a reworked secondary.
"We're just looking for the combinations," Donatell said. "We're excited watching them play in this game coming up and the joint practices with the 49ers. A little early to tell anything, but we like what we've seen."
Cine has started to form a bond with the stoic Smith, who has 11 years and 145 NFL games on the rookie.
"He doesn't say too much," Cine said. "He's a quiet guy. Personally, he talks to me a lot, I'll say that. I'm even shocked."
What does he say?
"I take a whole lot of knowledge from him," Cine said. "It's not all about football, it's about life experiences and all that. But we're becoming friends slowly and gradually. That's all you can ask. I'm a young guy trying to learn from him as a vet and he's taking me in. I really appreciate that."
Cine — or Bynum — will be the 11th different safety to start next to Smith when the Packers come to town Sept. 11 to open his 11th NFL season.
"I've worked with enough guys, a lot of different personalities, body types, game styles," Smith said. "He's got a good head on his shoulders. He's smart. He's got a bunch of tools, plus we got a bunch of other guys in there who know what they're doing."
Cine said team coaches have become familiar with all his tools, which Donatell described as "very physical" and "very sudden, very fast."
"I've shown coaches, the team, the GM what I can bring to the table," Cine said. "It's like when you get a new toy. You want to play with it, see all it can do. That was kind of like how I was with the coaches. But I think they're real comfortable with what they have and what they've seen. Real excited for what's to come."