MINNEAPOLIS – Vikings rookie cornerback Mike Hughes had just scored his first NFL touchdown and dropped the ball as he looked up into the stands at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Hughes doesn’t remember what happened after he crossed the goal line.
“I kind of blanked out,” Hughes said. “I was just amazed. All my teammates came around me. I was celebrating. I was getting the crowd hyped. It was a great feeling, man.”
Hughes’ debut in the 24-16 win on Sunday demonstrated the potential of Minnesota’s first-round draft pick. He had three tackles and a team-high three pass deflections, though Vikings coach Mike Zimmer also said there is plenty to work on for the speedy Hughes.
The chance to make a big impact in his first regular-season game wasn’t necessarily expected, though Minnesota is pleased with the development of its rookie cornerback.
With Mackensie Alexander inactive for the game because of an ankle injury, Hughes was the first choice for as the slot, nickel defensive back. When Trae Waynes went down with a right knee injury, Hughes moved outside to fill in for Waynes in an every-down role.
“Well, part of the reason why (general manager Rick Spielman) drafted him is because he’s a good football player,” Zimmer said after the game. “Now, he made some mistakes today and none of those mistakes ended up costing us the game.
“But you know, he practiced nickel all week long. He hardly practiced any corner, so he had to go out there in corner. So, for these young guys, they have to be on point with everything that we’re doing. He had some unsure things going on today that we’ll get corrected and I think he’ll be better for it. He’s a good kid, good football player and he got a nice ball thrown to him one time today.”
In the third quarter, Minnesota pressured San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw off his back foot out wide. What appeared to be a miscommunication with receiver Kendrick Bourne caused the receiver to slip and Hughes was in position for an easy interception and he went untouched 28 yards for the touchdown.
“That is what this league is about and you can kind of tell the way he carries himself that he’s not going to freeze up on the big stage,” Smith said of Hughes filling in for Waynes.
Except for one instance. Hughes left his first touchdown ball on the end zone turf. Smith alertly scooped up the football after Hughes dropped it.
Hughes credited the veterans on the defense for helping him in his first game.
“They always put you in the right places at the right time when you’re not sure what to do,” Hughes said. “But for me, I pay attention to the small details. So, when I am out there, I know what to do. Trae Waynes went down today. We always preach one guy goes down, next man up. That’s what happened today. Some good things, I took advantage of my opportunity.”
No update on Waynes status was provided after the game. He was seen on the sideline flexing his right knee and the athletic training staff had placed a sleeve on the knee, but Waynes never re-entered the game.
Hughes got the opportunity some weren’t sure he should have had for Minnesota. When Hughes was drafted 30th overall, the Vikings were adding to a position of strength with Xavier Rhodes, Waynes, Alexander and veteran Terence Newman. Some believed Minnesota was better off using the pick to help strengthen its offensive line.
On Sunday, Zimmer was glad he could turn to Hughes.
“We expect him to go out there and do that,” Zimmer said. “I mean, that’s why we drafted him. Everybody was complaining about taking that corner, I’m glad we had him today.”
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