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Updated: September 13th, 2010 10:21pm
Pelissero: Greg Camarillo still trying to speak Vikings' language

Pelissero: Greg Camarillo still trying to speak Vikings' language

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by Tom Pelissero

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Greg Camarillo's Mexican-American roots gave him a chance to become a cult hero with the Miami Dolphins, who boast one of the largest Hispanic fanbases in the NFL.

The one problem Camarillo had in connecting with those fans: he doesn't speak much Spanish.

Which brings us to the challenge the unilingual receiver is facing as he tries to connect with his new team.

Camarillo played only seven snaps in the Vikings' season-opening loss Thursday night in New Orleans, and he doesn't want to be sidelined again when his old team visits the Metrodome on Sunday.

"No ill will toward the team," Camarillo said of the Dolphins, who traded him for cornerback Benny Sapp on Aug. 25, "but I want to come out there and kick their ass."

First, he has to learn to speak the Vikings' offensive language. And that means forgetting almost everything Camarillo learned over three seasons in Miami.

Conceptually, there are some similarities between Dan Henning's scheme in Miami and the West Coast offense Brad Childress and Darrell Bevell direct in Minnesota.

However, the terminology has created a sort of language barrier for Camarillo, whose noted hands and route-running ability don't do him any good if he doesn't know where he's going.

"The hardest part is when they have the same word that means something different," Camarillo said. "You'll have a formation word here that puts somebody to the weak side, whereas in Miami, it puts somebody to the strong side. When you're learning a foreign language -- take Spanish. You learn that 'verde' is green, but when you're learning it, you have to think, 'Verde. Green.' That transition doesn't just pop out."

So, Camarillo kept reaching for his dictionary -- er, playbook -- last week as the Vikings put in their game plan for the Saints and everything became more complicated schematically.

He knew all the plays, but he'd mess up the split, or the depth -- natural mistakes for a player with barely two weeks' exposure to the scheme.

"You get the plays in the morning and you need to know them by the afternoon," said Camarillo, 28. "It takes me running them once, looking them over again, then studying at night for them to really stick in my brain."

By the end of the week, Camarillo had it down. But coaches understandably were wary of thrusting their newly acquired receiver into a prominent role at the raucous Superdome, where it could be hard for teammates to communicate and redirect him when needed.

Camarillo played six snaps as an outside receiver and one in the slot. That was enough for him to catch-and-run a corner route for a gain of 29 on a night the Vikings' other three receivers -- Bernard Berrian (47 snaps), Percy Harvin (46) and Greg Lewis (19) -- combined for three receptions and 27 yards in far more extended action.

"He's just going to get more comfortable and more comfortable the more time he spends out here with this group moving around," coach Brad Childress said.

The weekend off gave Camarillo plenty of time with his playbook, and the longer practice week should help him, too.

A onetime undrafted free agent, Camarillo doesn't have elite speed, strength or athleticism. He's stuck in the league for five years because of his precision and ability to play faster than he is -- which is tough to do when terminology is slowing you down.

The Vikings need Camarillo to come on, though, and he knows it.

He also knows what he has to do in the coming days to get the chance to kick youknowwhat against the Dolphins team that told him to kick rocks.

"If I want to be on the field, I have to know (the game plan) by practice," Camarillo said. "I can't say to the coaches, 'Oh, I messed it up on practice, but I'll have it down by the game.' Nobody trusts that. My whole goal is to have it down by the beginning of practice and get things going."

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.
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