The Minnesota Vikings, who recently lost starting strong safety Mistral Raymond to an ankle injury, are looking to bring in some help in the secondary while they wait for him to recover. On Friday, they hosted three free agent safeties for tryouts, one of which was their former second-round pick Tyrell Johnson.
“It is kind of a strange feeling,” Johnson said. “But it’s definitely an exciting feeling when you come back in and team welcomes you back. Your teammates all are happy to see you and hug you – that’s a very welcoming feeling to let you know you have your teammates still behind you and still rooting for you.”
Johnson, who the Vikings took in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, was allowed to walk via free agency this offseason. He was signed by the Miami Dolphins, who eventually released him a little over a month ago.
During his four seasons in Minnesota, Johnson played in 49 games, including 27 starts. He accumulated 123 total tackles, 10 defended passes and two interceptions, but struggled to impress coaches while constantly battling injury. His inconsistency, health issues and coverage lapses all lead to his eventual benching in 2011, which forced the Vikings to look elsewhere once his contract expired at season’s end.
Despite being labeled a bust, Johnson would be the Vikings’ best short-term option in case of an emergency. Johnson knows the defensive scheme and playbook, is convinced that his hamstring injury from last season is no longer an issue, and is ready to get back to contributing for an NFL team.
“I’ve grown and I don’t even worry about it,” Johnson said when asked if the Vikings seemed genuinely interested. “I just – you know how it is, man. Just control what you can control, come out and work hard, work your hardest, and hopefully, you get the call.”
It’s unlikely that the Vikings will sign Johnson at this time. More than likely, they were doing their due diligence and weighing their options in the instance that another safety goes down.
Among the other safety tryouts were Troy Nolan and Larry Asante. Nolan was a 2009 seventh-round pick who has spent time with the Dolphins and Houston Texans. Asante was a 2010 fifth-round pick who spent his first two seasons in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
We’ll see on Sunday how Jamarca Sanford fares as Raymond’s replacement at strong safety. If he struggles, don’t be surprised to see Johnson’s name pop up as a potential stand-in.