During organized team activities next week, Vikings rookie safety Lewis Cine will learn under the likes of veteran defensive backs Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson. But at rookie minicamp Friday, Cine was put in charge.
Cine was taken with the No. 32 pick out of Georgia in last month’s NFL draft. He arrived in Minnesota on Thursday, signed his contract, and soon got an assignment from first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell.
“I told him (Friday), ‘’Hey, lead this group out here,’’’ O’Connell said. “There’s a reason why you were our first-round draft pick and he’s got that makeup and it comes naturally to him to lead by example. But I challenged him, take the rest of that DB group under your wing.”
So Cine, 22, barked out instructions on the first day of the two-day minicamp at the TCO Performance Center to eight other defensive backs. The group included cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., a second-round pick who didn’t participate in drills Friday as he continues to recover from hernia surgery, cornerback Akayleb Evans, a fourth-round selection, an undrafted free-agent signee and five tryout players.
Cine took the assignment in stride.
“I’m a natural leader,’’ he said. “I know that right away I don’t have to do much. Just be myself. As long as I’m communicating with the guys generally, enjoying the game, leadership comes really easy after that.”
When the Vikings open the season Sept. 11 against Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium, Cine could be in the starting lineup alongside Smith, a six-time Pro Bowl selection.
“He sent me a good text message, ‘Welcome to the team,’’’ Cine said of Smith reaching out after the first round on April 28. “I sent something back. I’m really excited to get to learn under him.”
Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine leaves the field after drills at the NFL football team’s rookie minicamp in Eagan, Minn., Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
Smith is the hardest-hitting player in Minnesota’s secondary, and Cine is also known for dishing out blows. While nobody was wearing pads at Friday’s workout, Cine called it a “dope process” stepping on the field in the “big leagues.”
Cine wore No. 16 in college before the Vikings gave him No. 6 when he was introduced April 29 to the Minnesota media. Cine said then that No. 16 wasn’t available, but he liked 6 because “single digits sell a whole lot.”
The Vikings announced last Tuesday that Cine would be assigned No. 16, but a representative of his agency, Roc Nation Sports, told the Pioneer Press on Thursday he instead had decided to keep No. 6. That’s what he wore Friday, and punter Jordan Berry, listed on the full team roster as No. 6, soon will change.
“They had great intentions in trying to get me 16, the coaches,’’ Cine said. “But I talked to them and it’s like I’m comfortable with 6. It’s a new beginning for me. And I’m staying with it. … It’s great for marketing.”
If Cine develops the way the Vikings hope, he might have plenty to market.
“He’s got a calm demeanor to him,’’ said O’Connell, who is presiding over 42 players at the minicamp. “He’s got that off the field where you’re wondering, ‘Is this the same guy I watched on tape?’ But then, even though he’s just in a helmet and isn’t in shoulder pads and is not in full contact, you watch him step over the white lines and the Lewis Cine from tape comes out. How I saw it was the ownership of the information, the calls back there.”
Cine got a four-year, $11.494 million contract that is fully guaranteed. In the 2021 draft, only the top 28 selections had all four years guaranteed, and Cine thanked Roc Nation Sports and the Vikings for the deal getting done quickly so he could “focus on football.”
“I like being just a normal person,’’ he said. “I talk with people. I laugh. I have a great personality. But I know once I’m on the field, it’s work. I have to be serious about I’m doing, what’s going to feed me, my family and everyone.’’
With O’Connell wanting Cine to be a leader, he is taking the role quite seriously. He said it extends to off the field, and he is making an effort to be “respectful” to everyone at the TCO Performance Center.
“I’m starting to get to know everyone’s name, from people serving me my food, people I just see walking in the hallways,’’ he said. “I’m introducing myself and getting their names because it might look small but that goes a long way.”
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