RICHMOND — No brace covers his knee, perhaps symbolic but mostly a nod to how corner Chase Minnifield says he feels. He trusts his knee; there’s no reason to add protection.
Despite two surgical procedures — first microfracture and then anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction — within six months on his right knee in 2012 and another ACL operation in high school, Minnifield remains upbeat and confident. For the Redskins, they can express pleasure at his development, all the while crossing their fingers that his knee remains sound.
If that’s the case then they have more depth at a position lacking in it a year ago. But they’re also not in dire need of having Minnifield produce as they have four players ahead of him they like: DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, David Amerson and E.J. Biggers.
“I’m further ahead than where I was in [mini]camp last year,” Minnifield said. “I feel like where I was in college. I feel great.”
As for the lack of a brace, Minnifield said, “I worked out without it for a long time now. I’m very confident in my ability and in my strength.”
In college, he was projected as a possible second- or third-round pick. But the microfracture procedure in January 2012 caused him to go undrafted. He then tore his ACL on the final day of minicamp that spring, resulting in a year-long quest to return. Doctors say once an athlete has microfracture surgery the likelihood of further troubles increases and it does so even more after that combined with an ACL procedure.
But for Minnifield, any concern over his knee ended during the five weeks between minicamp and training camp. He worked out in Ashburn, but also back home in Kentucky with his father, ex-NFL cornerback Frank Minnifield. His son worked out four times a day, starting sessions at 5 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. with some lasting two hours. Among his workouts: pushing a Mercedes for 20 minutes.
“A lot of people can’t stand up to that,” Minnifield said. “It makes me stronger [mentally] coming back from my knee injuries two times. I know whatever happens out here I can handle it. The process of coming back is way harder than the process of playing out here.”
The 6-foot, 186-pound Minnifield says he’s playing the way he wants in practice. There’s little doubt that he’s an aggressive corner, particularly when he jams receivers in press coverage. He’s not infallible and allowed several catches in practice Tuesday, getting juked at times. But he’s also shown that — as long as the knee holds out — he’ll contend for a roster spot.
“He’s one of the more aggressive DBs,” Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan said. “He’s very good at the line of scrimmage. He has long arms and long strides. He can make a mistake, but he’s tall enough and long enough that he can recover.”
When Minnifield watches film, he likes the manner in which he’s playing, it’s a feisty style similar to his father. Like his dad, Minnifield craves film study.
“I’m just being comfortable and being physical,” Minnifield said. “My game is physical. I’m playing the game I want to play. Disruption is what I want to do as a corner. No quarterback likes anybody who disrupts things. That’s what I bring. I’m an in-your-face, no-nonsense type of guy on the field. That’s just how I’ve been raised.”
But the knee questions will linger. It’s why the coaches won’t get too excited too fast. One word will be attached to his name for a while: “If.” Patience, too, is a key.
“He feels good, there is no swelling, there’s no side effects in the ACL. So far so good,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “You do not want to put too much pressure on him too early. It is a process through all four preseason games and all these practices, but I like what I have seen.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.
Today’s practices are at 10 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. If you’re thinking of going to Richmond, check our our guide to training camp for tips on getting autographs, parking and more.
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