Simply put, Lewis Cine’s rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings couldn’t have gotten off to a much worse start.
After being selected with the 2022 NFL Draft’s last first round pick, Cine came into his rookie season’s training camp in a heated competition with Camryn Bynum to see who would become starter with veteran safety Harrison Smith.
Being a high draft pick, the Vikings obviously wanted (and likely still do plan for) Cine to become a regular starter.
Developing under multiple pro-bowler Smith was not going to be an easy task however, with a nagging minor knee injury limiting Cine’s potential in the later days of training camp and early on in the season.
Cine would end up not seeing a snap in the season opener against Green Bay due to the issue but did feature briefly from Weeks 2 to 4 of last season, mostly in a special teams role.
It was the Week 4 matchup in London on the artificial turf of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium where he suffered a compound fracture of his left leg. Cine was immediately ruled out for the season and scheduled for two operations to repair the severe damage.
Speaking to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, Head Coach Kevin O’Connell fought back tears after the game while describing Cine as a “favorite” of his.
That makes it all the better to hear and see Cine at minicamp taking smooth reps and speaking to KSTP 5’s Darren Wolfson a few days ago.
“Honestly, I felt great,” said Cine. “I worked my tail off and I had great people to help me throughout that process.”
Cine took reps not only running defensive routes but also spent time on the Jugs machine to get his hands back and dialed in.
Since the beginning of off-season programming in April Cine has felt really confident, stating “A lot has been accomplished on a mental stance, (learning) a new defense. Sometimes you're going to have up days and sometimes low days, but (I’ve) been making sure to keep getting 1% better every day.”
It’s truly an impressive feat to come back from one of the worst injuries a Vikings player has suffered in recent years. But Cine, like any hungry talent would, highlighted the work that is still left to be done.
“This is like a freshman year all over again,” said Cine. “I didn't get to play last year, I’m learning a new defense again, so everything is back to ground zero in a way so that is why I have to key on to the meetings and make sure I grow.”
Here’s to hoping his injury was only a temporary pause in Cine’s development and that his burgeoning career won’t be too badly effected by the tough card dealt his way in London.