Vikings rookie corner Xavier Rhodes expected to be a quick study
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes tripped over his own feet and the Mankato training camp crowd briefly held its collective breath as he remained on the ground for five seconds.
Rhodes popped back up to applause as he jaunted off the field only to return a few plays later and deflect a McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass to tight end Colin Anderson in passing drills.
"Ah, me being clumsy," Rhodes said after Wednesday's practice. "I slipped, I think it was a linebacker came running toward the ball and kneed me in the butt."
Rhodes' pants were covered in grass stains, his facial hair dripped with sweat as he explained the toughest part about his NFL transition -- one that is quicker than most rookies as he is expected to contribute early.
"It's non-stop running, man, literally," Rhodes said. "I think I go to camp and there'd be a break here, break there, no. It's running all day.
"Learning from my mistakes when I watch film. I'm still working on that right now, I'm getting used to letting the receiver go after five yards. It's going to take time."
Rhodes might not have much time. The Florida State product was drafted in the first round in April and has been working with the first-team nickel defense as a base corner.
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said he's not expecting Rhodes to be a starter, simply because he's letting the competition play out for itself.
"It's always tough on a rookie guy, especially a corner, to come in and play well," Williams said. "But every indicator is that [Rhodes] will, just based on his work ethic and his talent."
Williams said "the film will tell" on which corners deserve the nod to start in Week 1 against Detroit, but Rhodes clearly has the support of his coaches and teammates.
"No, we don't haze him, because we know we're going to need a guy like him to step in and make some plays for us," Cornerback Chris Cook said. "We've just been feeding him confidence and want him to keep his confidence level."
Rhodes' coverage is a work in progress, as he still battles with letting receivers go after 5 yards -- something he could get away with more in college.
But Williams said his confidence level doesn't need any work.
"He's a prideful guy," Williams said. "Everything is not perfect right now, but he works at it. He comes in early, he stays late. Every indicator is he's going to be a good football player."