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Updated: April 22nd, 2010 3:17pm
Lito Sheppard thinks he'll have a chance to start

Lito Sheppard thinks he'll have a chance to start

by Tom Pelissero
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- New Minnesota Vikings cornerback Lito Sheppard says coaches haven't told him what his role will be, but he sounds like a guy who expects to start.

"I know the situation in the secondary -- (Cedric) Griffin coming off a ACL (tear) and whatnot, and (Antoine) Winfield and those guys already there," Sheppard said minutes ago in a conference call with Minnesota reporters.

"So, I'm just coming in and just competing, and ultimately, I really do think I'm going to have a chance to start, and that's what I'm shooting for."

He later added, "I definitely wanted to go in and start, and given this situation, the predicament, I definitely have that opportunity."

Sheppard signed a one-year contract on Wednesday that reportedly is worth $2 million. He said he drew interest from every team in the NFC North Division -- including a recent visit with the Detroit Lions -- but decided not to wait for other offers.

Griffin will be only about six months removed from knee reconstruction when training camp begins, leaving the door open for Sheppard -- a ninth-year veteran and former Pro Bowl pick -- to step in.

"Man, this is an excellent opportunity," said Sheppard, who was cut by the New York Jets last month before a large signing bonus was due.

"As I was going through that whole process, I really didn't know how it was going to end up, as far as what kind of team. But when Minnesota was showing some interest, I was like, ‘Wow, this can really be a great opportunity,' because I know what kind of team they already have made up, and I just felt like I could come in and help out that much more."

Sheppard already is back in Florida and isn't sure when he'll return to Minnesota, but he expects to participate in at least some of the Vikings' voluntary offseason activities.

He'll wear No. 29.

UPDATE, 3:33 p.m.: Here's some more from Sheppard ...

On playing for Vikings coach Brad Childress, who was offensive coordinator for part of Sheppard's time in Philadelphia: "Coach Childress, he had a good time trying to beat me in practice during my early years in Philly. ... I know what type of coach he is and how thorough, and he does a great job of getting his point over and relating to the players."

On how the Vikings' defense compares to schemes he's played: "It's a lot similar to what we did in Philly with some subtle twists and changes, because everybody call it different and everybody add and take away good and bad from every system. But I definitely know we have players, and that's what makes the defense work. Those up-front guys have been doing their thing for the past couple years, and hopefully, I can help them even get more sacks by covering some guys."

On whether a one-year deal was attractive because he can cash in next year: "I'm going to kind of let that play out itself. I just needed a fair opportunity to have a chance to get out there and show what I can do, and with this system, with this team, I think that'll work out great."

On how he compares as a player to when he went to his last Pro Bowl in 2006: "I think I'm more smarter with the same athletic ability. My past three years have been a tough road as far as off-the-field situations, and I think with this situation, this predicament, I think I can put all that behind me and we can move forward. But those guys'll be able to tell you once the season starts and they see me out there."

On how much nickel he's played in recent years: "I never played in the nickel. I can play all over the field. I'm a cornerback, I'm an athletic corner, and I don't like to get titled as a left-side, right-side or inside guy. I'm (going to) just show what I can do, and where I'm needed, I think they'll put me in the best position.

On why things didn't work out in New York: "Pretty much contract reasons. The money that was due to me -- I don't think they wanted to give that much out and they went a different, a smarter, a less-expensive route."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
In this story: Brad Childress, Lito Sheppard