Sharrif Floyd has been playing football for nearly two straight years in his rise from the University of Florida to the Minnesota Vikings.
For the past 17 months, Floyd’s been focused on football — beginning with his junior season at Florida to forgoing his final year and entering the NFL Draft early, his preparation for eventually being drafted No. 23 overall by Minnesota and, finally, his rookie season with the Vikings.
Forgive Floyd if he wasn’t at least a little eager for some down time.
"Coming from that college situation is crazy," Floyd said after the 2013 Vikings season ended. "You go through a whole college season, straight to training for the draft — it’s a whole process. So it’s about two years of straight football, straight constant moving and no rest. So now I get a chance to rest, (then) get ready to get going again."
His rest will be short. Floyd said he plans to take a couple of weeks off before getting back to working out, but he’s eager to recuperate and return to full health after his rookie season was set back by injury.
Floyd wasn’t expected to be an immediate contributor for the Vikings. Rather, he was drafted with a long-term view as the backup and eventual replacement for veteran Kevin Williams. He played all 16 games, starting once, and finished with 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
But it took Floyd time to even make his limited contribution. He was hampered by a knee injury suffered in the preseason opener and had to have a minor procedure done to alleviate pain in the front of his knee. Through the first eight games, he had five tackles and 1.5 sacks.
"I think it set me back a lot because in camp, even minicamp, I was doing great on everything," Floyd said. "Every time I slowly started really picking up on how I was supposed to be playing, something happened. It was something I went through. I’m happy I went through it now and hope I don’t have to go through it later."
Floyd’s playing time fluctuated all season; he spent most of the year in a rotation with Kevin Williams at the three-technique position. He received his only start in Week 10 against the Washington Redskins, when Letroy Guion and Fred Evans were out with injuries. He had two tackles in the game, playing next to Kevin Williams at nose tackle, and then started his push in the second half of his season.
Feeling more comfortable in the defense, and getting healthy, Floyd had 14 of his 19 tackles over the final eight weeks and demonstrated some of his skills for disrupting the interior of the offensive line and making plays in the backfield. Coaches’ film review credited Floyd with 7.5 tackles for loss with four coming in the final five games.
"I think my last four, the second half of the season I really feel like I was playing the way I should have been playing in the beginning," Floyd said. "And it should have picked up a whole other level. But that’s neither here nor there; I can’t go back and change anything right now. All I can do is look ahead and get ready for another one."
Floyd is looking forward to his sophomore season with Minnesota, following some rest and getting healthy. He feels he’ll be better prepared for the rigors of an NFL season after having at least a little down time during the offseason.
"Getting ready, getting an offseason under my belt and getting ready for a new one, I feel like I’m going to come in a lot more healthy," Floyd said.
With possible defensive changes coming, too, after defensive-minded head coach Leslie Frazier was fired, Floyd feels he fits with any possible scheme or philosophy.
From the time he was drafted, Floyd spoke about his versatility and how he was used to playing different positions and in different defensive systems. He played tackle and end at Florida, even playing end on the outside in the Wide-9 scheme employed by the Gators.
At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, Floyd fits as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense, or as an end in a 3-4 and gives Minnesota’s next coach and defensive coordinator a piece to build on, no matter the system. With Williams’ likely departure as a free agent, Floyd should earn a starting spot next season.
"I don’t think it will affect me in any bad way," Floyd said of any changes. "At the end of the day, it’s going to be football and can you pick it up faster than anyone else. And it’s not even to beat out the other guy. It’s not that at all. It’s can we come together and do this together in the philosophy that we’ve got to play in?"