Bobby Felder walks into camp Tuesday morning. It turned out to be a good day (Credit: Arif Hasan/DailyNorseman)
There weren't many names that have popped out in the past few days of training camp that we haven't heard time an again as Vikings fans. Only a few rookies can hope to make an impact their rookie year, and even fewer of those were ignored during the NFL draft. Undrafted free agent Bobby Felder is a player who hopes to break out of that pattern and prove he has what it takes.
In line with that goal, he had a stellar performance yesterday.
While it is important to downplay the role of camp phenoms, it's equally important to highlight the performances of some of the less well-known camp bodies who hope to make the team. Felder is one of two undrafted cornerbacks who have been impressing reporters and coaches alike at camp this year. The other is Reggie Jones.
We had a chance to talk with Felder about his time at camp and what's changed for him entering the NFL.
Before anything else, Felder resists the notion that yesterday was a 'breakout' day for him.
"I want to perform like this every day," the Nicholls State standout said. "I want this to be the beginning ... and peak at the right time."
There's no question that Felder has been putting in the work and determination he needs to meet that goal, and has arrived early to a number of practices.
The Vikings were interested in signing him because of his outstanding play at Nicholls State, grabbing five interceptions his senior year for a total of 11 overall.
When asked about any schematic changes he encountered when practicing for the Vikings, Felder waved aside any concerns. "It's pretty close to what we ran," he said. The bigger differences to him were terminology and speed.
Felder relishes the level of competition he faces here in the NFL, and emphasized how fast the game is. "It's a lot faster here, and there's a lot of great people around. You know, everyone is athletic here. That's the most important. From the centers to the fullbacks to the defensive linemen."
He's not concerned, however. Felder is confident that his play on the field will stand out. He knew going into camp that he wouldn't get as many reps as other plays, and didn't see that as much of a challenge at all. In fact, Felder has a leg up on some undrafted free agents, given his close relationship with Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb, also a Nicholls State graduate.
"I would kind of see him as one of my big brothers ... they paired me up with him to be my big brother there. He's kind of one of the reasons I went to Nicholls."
They are in constant communication, and Webb has provided Bobby with insight into the NFL. "He's been talking to me throughout training camp. He kind of showed me, before I actually got here ... how things were ... [I]t's a lot more mental than physical. Being with them, they barely tackle at practice."
Felder has made sure to study up to make sure has has a good shot at making the team. "You may not get as many reps at practice as you would in college. That's kind of the biggest thing. He tells me just to stay focused and do what I do."
It's true that the young cornerback hasn't seen the field as often as he might like, but doesn't anticipate that as being a problem. "I don't count my reps, I try to make my reps count," he said. "If they only give me one rep a day, I'll try to make that one rep. It's actually a blessing to be here."
He's been deploying his skills well, making sure to set himself and route receivers inside and using his strength to his advantage.
Earlier, I wrote that Felder's best ability is his talent for tracking the ball in the air and adjusting his body to catch it. He certainly took advantage of it, intercepting a well thrown pass by Christian Ponder after nearly perfect coverage on Kerry Taylor.
Not only that, he stood out as the only player on the third defensive team capable of stopping the third offense's steady march down the field on two separate drives.
Most impressive, however, was his performance in punt and kick return duty. He broke several tackles on a number of drills, and exhibited both excellent agility and solid vision.
He doesn't seem to mind that the less physical nature of NFL practices will compromise his ability to showcase his most notable assets, either.
"If I wasn't talented enough, I wouldn't be here."