The last time Chris Crocker suited up for a NFL team, he was a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals in their Wild Card Weekend playoff game against the San Diego Chargers. Now, Crocker is sporting the purple and gold of the Vikings, and his goal is to help a different team being coached by a familiar face to the postseason.
Crocker, a veteran of 12 NFL seasons and a key piece of Bengals teams that made the playoffs each of the past three seasons, signed with the Vikings on Monday. His union with the Vikings makes sense given the presence of Mike Zimmer as head coach – Crocker played for Zimmer in Cincinnati and in Atlanta before that.
"I never retired," Crocker, 34, said on Monday. "You always are kind of ready. Especially when you know you got a guy like (Mike) Zimmer that you can play for. You know we have rapport and we talk often and in this part in my career I wouldn't want to go anyone else. I'm not starting over, I wanted to play for a guy who has meant a lot for my career and I've given him everything that I have just empty the gas tank and see where it goes."
Wherever it goes for Crocker with the Vikings, expect it to happen quickly. The veteran safety's experience in Zimmer's scheme will allow him to come in and make an immediate impact, whether it's as a playmaker on the field, a leader in the classroom and on the field, or all of the above.
"It's really big because I have been in the scheme pretty much all of my career," Crocker said of his familiarity with the Vikings new defense. "Just to come in it's the same terminology, I know most of the staff, I played with and against most of these guys so I'm familiar with them, and you know Zimmer is the ultimate DB coach so you know I take my lead from him. It shouldn't be tough, I come in and I obviously know his scheme and I will help these guys learn it also."
View images from practice No. 9 of 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp which took place on Monday, August 4.
Crocker figures to immediately enter the mix for a starting spot at safety next to Harrison Smith. Robert Blanton looked to be the leader in that competition until a hamstring injury sidelined him, Andrew Sendejo just returned from his own injury, rookie Antone Exum is training at the position, and returning Vikings Brandan Bishop, Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford are also vying for a spot on the depth chart.
From listening to Crocker after his first practice with Zimmer's Vikings team, it's clear the team added a dedicated veteran presence to the roster who will give maximum effort and leave everything on the field.
"I've given everything I have to him," Crocker explained. "I think I've been accountable. That's the biggest thing that I've not only been accountable, but I've been a playmaker for him and that's all he can ask for in a player. From a coaching standpoint, he's just so honest and you can really appreciate that the guy is going to tell you whether you're good or whether you're bad but at the end of the day you're going to know where you stand. I've always played at the highest level playing for a guy like that."