One of the pleasant surprises from Redskins' mandatory mini-camp was undrafted rookie cornerback Chase Minnifield.
After signing with the Redskins in the days following April's draft, the former Cavalier put on a clinic in the two practices open to the media, picking off a pass from quarterback Robert Griffin III and deflecting a number of others.
"I feel pretty good out here, I just thank God that I'm healthy," Minnifield said. "If I'm healthy, then I'm alright."
Being healthy was no sure thing for Minnifield, who needed offseason knee surgery to repair a minor injury. The procedure slowed Minnifield to the mid-4.6 range in his Combine 40, causing him to slide from a high-round draft pick to undrafted.
For Minnifield, it was a lesson in the fickle nature of the NFL, but one that he intends to play his way out of.
"Obviously, it would have been better if I was drafted because the team would have invested more into me," he explained. "But at the end of the day, this is the NFL and if you're not playing up to your capabilities, you get cut. It's the best guys that are going to play--whoever is getting the job done."
Minnifield's coaches praised his effort during the week and credited their fortune in landing him so late.
"The only knock on him he has is coming out is he had the bad knee and he ran and should have never ran the 40." said defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. "He had a bad 40 time and he became a free agent.
"We saw him on film and we thought he would be a high draft pick, a third-round draft pick, that can help somebody so we went after him as a free agent. Thank God we got him."
Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris echoed Haslett's enthusiasm, crediting the hard work of each of the rookie defensive backs.
"I'm ecstatic [Minnifield] did not run as well in his 40-time, to make him a free agent to be able to come to Washington," Morris said with a grin. "He's done a nice job."
Despite the long odds of his situation, Minnifield can take comfort in the fact that undrafted free agents have a long history of success with Mike Shanahan-coached teams. Undrafted players currently on the roster include London Fletcher, Lorenzo Alexander, Brandon Banks, Willie Smith, Logan Paulsen and Tyler Polumbus.
For the next five weeks before training camp, Minnifield will have an opportunity to rest, strengthen and rehab his knee. Once he arrives at training camp, he knows it's an uphill battle for a roster spot.
"I just keep doing my rehab and strengthening it up," he said. "If I'm healthy, I think I'll be ready."