EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has long espoused a team can never have enough cornerbacks.
Zimmer was asked about his mantra earlier this month and recalled advice he once received from Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells.
"You know, Parcells said, 'We need six on campus all the time,' " Zimmer told media members. "They get dinged, they get soft-tissue injuries … COVID. He didn't know about [the pandemic], but you know what I mean? That's the way it is."
It seems every year the position group gets banged up, and the 2021 campaign so far is no different.
The Vikings on Monday placed Patrick Peterson on Injured Reserve, meaning the veteran corner will miss, at minimum, Minnesota's next three games.
Bashaud Breeland has played every game but missed a majority of the Week 4 contest against Cleveland due to illness. Kris Boyd missed Week 4 with a hamstring injury, and Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand both have missed time due to COVID-19 protocols.
Harrison Smith recently compared the soft-tissue injury risk for cornerbacks versus safeties.
"[There] could be a run play where I have vision on what's happening," Smith explained. "The play's kind of over, but [the corner is] thinking it's a go ball and he's running 50 yards.
"No one sees that, but that's the day in the life of a corner," Smith added. "It's a lot of running, a lot of fast-twitch movements."
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman spoke with Twin Cities media members Tuesday morning and addressed Minnesota's depth at cornerback heading into the bye week.
Spielman said he wished he "had a crystal ball" to look into the future and plan for unexpected occurrences like Peterson suffering a significant injury for the first time in 11-season career, or 2020 first-round draft Jeff Gladney getting into legal trouble that resulted in his release from the team.
Asked if he had regrets about trading cornerback Mike Hughes, who struggled with injuries in Minnesota but is playing consistently for Kansas City, Spielman emphasized the importance of making well-educated decisions at the time.
"I didn't anticipate the Gladney situation. Peterson, he's never been hurt, I don't think, his entire career," Spielman said. "But I do think we still have — that's why we kept six corners. Dantzler's going to get his opportunity to step up and play again. He did play very well in the Arizona game when he got his chance, and he was coming off this week, you know, he missed the last 10 days because he was on the [Reserve/COVID-19 list] … so it's great timing of the bye to get him caught up and ready to roll.
"The way Mackensie [Alexander] has stepped in and played, Harrison Hand has been an 'A' special teams player for us and also has shown signs when he got an opportunity to play last year in the nickel spot," Spielman continued. "So I think we do have enough depth at the corner, where if we do have guys get injured, that those guys are going to have to step up and play."
And don't forget the Vikings do have a pair of cornerbacks on their practice squad in Tye Smith and Parry Nickerson, both of whom have spent some time in the NFL.
Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson reminded earlier this month of practice squad options, as well.
"My philosophy is to coach everybody because you never know what's going to happen. You've got to get guys prepared to play, even though they have not played up until this point," Patterson said. "That's the deal with the NFL, so we work hard on coaching all of our guys. When I say 'all of our guys,' I'm even talking about the practice squad guys.
"Those guys don't just look at cards and be the look team for the other team's defense," Patterson added. "I look at our offense when our scout team guys are going, and I watch the tape of our guys on defense, and I coach those guys up, even though they're looking like the other team's defense, because I never know when they're going to have to come up and play. It could happen at any moment, so when you do that, you feel comfortable when you have to make change, because somebody is hurt or whatever the case may be."