Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 9/28/12
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Jamarca Sanford is back in the Minnesota Vikings' starting lineup at safety following Mistral Raymond's ankle injury, but he can easily recall the depths to which he sunk after being told at the end of the preseason than Raymond had won the starting spot. Sanford, who started all 15 games he played last season, had worked on his conditioning during the offseason, trying to make himself better suited in pass coverage. But by the time the preseason wrapped up, Minnesotadecided to stick with Raymond, a sixth-round pick in 2011, in a young, inexperienced safety duo with rookie Harrison Smith. When Sanford got the news, it took some time for himto recover. "It took me down," Sanford said. "I'm not going to lie; it took me a minute. The first three days, I was just dead. I was just wondering, looking for an answer like, 'What I didn't do right, or what did I do wrong?' " Sanford was hurt, believing he had done everything in his power to retain the starting spot he had taken so long to earn. A seventh-round draft choice in 2009, Sanford was relegated to mainly special teams work his first two seasons. In a competition with former second-rounder Tyrell Johnson, Sanford won the starting spot last year and came through with 118 tackles and two of the team's league-low eight interceptions. After Raymond hurt his ankle last week, Sanford sees another chance to prove himself as a starter. He'll start alongside Smith, giving Minnesota a pair of hard-hitting safeties when the Vikings travel to play Detroit this weekend. Sanford's ability to defend the run has never been a problem. But when he left for the offseason last year, coaches made sure the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Sanford knew he needed to improve his pass coverage and tackling in the open field. A noted weight-room addict, Sanfordturned his focus toconditioning and worked on strengthening his core to improve his quickness and flexibility. "I'd been told you work on your abs and it helps your speed and being more explosive," Sanford said. "I never bought into it. And this offseason I worked on my abs, and it feels like I've come back more explosive. I can see where I can bend more and I can open my hips more fluidly. So, I think just the work I did this offseason, not just being in the weight room all the time, it helped me loosen my body up a little bit more." Sanford believes the work paid off. Coming on for an injured Raymond in the first quarter last week, Sanford finished with six tackles and one big forced fumble. While waiting for another chance on defense, Sanford embraced his role as a key player on the special teams coverage units. He had four tackles and a forced fumble in the first three weeks. His willingness to do anything asked and keep himself ready to play impressed the coaches. "He did a good job of putting himself in a position where, if he got called up, he was going to be able to make some plays, and he did," coach Leslie Frazier said. "His attitude has remained good throughout. I told him the other day, I think he's a great example of (what) a veteran player, any player, has to do if you're not starting; just stay prepared because you just never know, any given play your number could be called." Sanford is one of the team's more energetic and emotional players, constantly talking during practice and games. Those emotions overcame him when he heard he wouldn't be starting. He said he talked to a few of his closer friends on the team, Percy Harvin, Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson, and credited them for pulling him up in his tough time after the announcement. "They just kept pumping me and telling me, 'You know, just keep working,' " Sanford said. "I just kept working and preparing every week like I was going to play. I already knew I was one play away. A safety got hurt, I knew I was going to be in there. So, (I) just kept preparing. My opportunity will open up and it came; just trying to take advantage of it." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Rams owner buys massive 520,000-acre Texas ranch

Cam Newton explains why he did not dive on fumble

George Karl’s agent rips Kings, wants broadcaster reprimanded

WATCH: Popovich has funny reaction to New Hampshire results

Suns vets pull packing peanut prank on rookie Devin Booker

Teammate gives Manning final completion ball from Super Bowl

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Ole Miss Football cited in 13 of 28 department violations by NCAA

Larry Sanders to consider NBA comeback after other interests stabilize

The NCAAB power rankings

SEC begins crying foul over Jim Harbaugh’s spring break plans at Michigan

Marc Gasol reportedly out indefinitely with broken foot

Patriots waive Montee Ball despite never officially re-signing running back

WATCH: Blackhawks coach walks out of press conference

Greg McElroy: Cam Newton 'quit on his team'

Tennis umpires secretly banned over gambling issues

WATCH: Dancing Kentucky fan slides down rail, fails

Clemson LB has great response to NFL draft analyst's criticism

Former Aggies QB Kyle Allen reveals culture problems at Texas A&M

Roy Williams collapses during game vs. BC

Panthers TE Greg Olsen shaves off his playoff beard

Derek Fisher thanks Knicks in statement

Miami Heat to honor Shaq by retiring his number 32

Oakland Raiders release Nate Allen

B.J. Penn announces he will return at UFC 197

Bring back the Dunk Contest

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The NCAAB power rankings

Report: Kings to keep coach George Karl

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker