At the University of Virginia, cornerback Chase Minnifield made the first-team All-ACC twice and finished his senior year ranked second in the nation in career interceptions for an active player with 13. He was a sure tackler with great hands, the instincts to break open any play and the pedigree of an NFL star (he is the son of Pro Bowl cornerback for the Cleveland Browns Frank Minnifield). Early draft analysts projected him to go in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, some even going so far as to put him in the first round. Everything seemed on the rise for the young star, until a knee injury destroyed his hopes.
Before the team played in the Chik-fil-a Bowl last year, Minnifield went down with a knee injury that would later require microfracture surgery. After the surgery, Minnifield ran a disappointing 4.6 40 during the pre-draft process. His draft stock began falling quickly, with many executives taking him off their boards entirely. The trend followed in April as well, when Minnifield sat through the draft without a phone call, in the end never getting one.
“You know, the draft is what it is,” Minnifield said. “I’m not a different player. I’m the same player, so you know, being undrafted is kind of a label that’s given to me, but at the end of the day, I personally think I was the best corner in the draft, so I’m just going to play how I’ve always played.”
Instead of giving up, Minnifield decided to try out for the Washington Redskins with some guidance from his father, who played for the Browns from 1984 to 1992. Now at the end of OTAs, he has made enough plays to receive serious consideration for playing time on the team. On the last day of practice, Minnifield has gone stride for stride with blazer Pierre Garcon, and also recorded an interception on last year’s starting quarterback Rex Grossman. At that point, the coaches took him out of the game knowing that they’d seen enough to know Minnifield would be fine.
“I am ecstatic he did not run as well in his 40 time to make him drop to be a free agent and to be able to come to Washington,” defensive backs coach Raheem Morris said after practice. “He’s done a nice job.”
Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett also showed support for Minnifield after practice, and said that the team will keep around six cornerbacks, meaning that there will be plenty of room to keep Minnifield on the roster.
“He’s got football intelligence,” Haslett said. “He’s got awareness. He’s smart. He can play a lot of different positions. Hopefully he keeps progressing the way he’s doing because I like the kid.”
If he can complete his recovery and return to form, Minnifield could be a steal for a Washington team in desperate need of help in the secondary. Already he seems on the fast track to being a big part of that group in the future for the Redskins, but for now Chase is simply laying it all out and hoping for the best.
“I’m just going out there and trying to compete every day, just trying to put my health in the Lord’s hands,” Minnifield said. “You know, you can’t come out here and half it half the time and protect yourself. You’ve got to go all at it, and whatever comes out, you’ve got to deal with it.”
By Brian Paxton