Days start at 6 a.m. Leg exercises. Stretching. Cold and hot tubs at various points throughout the day. Anything to keep the knee healthy. Encouragement came from his father, Frank, a four-time Pro Bowl selection during nine years playing defensive back for the Browns.
“I don’t take nothing for granted,” Minnifield said. “I do whatever it takes to come in here and play.”
There’s opportunity in a defensive backfield that surrendered the third-most passing yards in the NFL last season and gave up big plays as regularly as Griffin took hits running the football. But Minnifield’s task is daunting. While his microfracture surgery wasn’t as severe as, say, the career-crushing procedures former NBA top pick Greg Oden endured, the success of athletes returning from the procedure has been mixed.
Add the two ACL tears and the mileage on the 24-year-old’s knee is significant. That’s no small thing at a position where acceleration and flexibility are crucial in the NFL’s unforgiving, what-have-you-done-lately world. But he’s on the field, in the mix for a roster spot with a right knee that doesn’t hint at the trauma unless you know the story.
At 11:40 a.m., the questions finally ended. That patience has come at a steep price.
“This is not a guaranteed thing,” Minnifield said. “No matter what you do, you could go out on one play.”
He wasn’t in any hurry to leave.