EAGAN, Minn. -- In Kris Boyd’s first game as a pro, he would welcome facing one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks.
With the Minnesota Vikings thin at cornerback, the 22-year-old rookie could be thrown in against Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in Sunday’s regular-season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“That’s what I signed up for,” said Boyd, a seventh-round draft pick out of the University of Texas. “You’ve got to be expected in the NFL to be going against the best of the best, and it’s just another opportunity to take advantage of. I see it as a big blessing for me.”
Ryan is a four-time Pro Bowl selection who was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2016. He has a trio of top-notch receivers in six-time Pro Bowl selection Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley.
The Vikings’ starting outside cornerbacks are Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. Their two top reserves won’t play Sunday; Mike Hughes will sit out the game as he recovers from a knee injury, and Holton Hill has been suspended by the NFL for the first eight games for substance abuse issues.
If Rhodes or Waynes need a break, the Vikings could put slot back Mackensie Alexander on the outside and insert safety Jayron Kearse at nickel. Or they could throw Boyd into the fire.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t speculate on whether Boyd could be in line for snaps from scrimmage but did say he has “practiced really well this week.”
Zimmer also said undrafted rookie cornerback Mark Fields, acquired last Saturday from Kansas City, has looked good this week in workouts. But it remains to be seen if Fields will be active Sunday, and it would be a surprise if he played ahead of Boyd.
At the very least, Boyd looks to be in line to play on special teams.
“It’s just another opportunity to go out there and play and just handle my business and have fun and enjoy the moment and hope everything goes smooth,” he said. “I’m pretty excited for my first NFL regular-season game. It’s something I’ve always looked forward to.”
Boyd missed the first preseason game with a hamstring injury and was limited to just one play on special teams in the second. He said he feels fine now after playing 77 snaps from scrimmage in the final two preseason games.
“He’s done well,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “It’s a shame he ended up missing those first two preseason games. The first game (back), he came out and was a little rusty. The fourth game, he ended up coming along pretty good.”
Boyd solidified a roster spot in the final preseason game, a 27-23 loss at Buffalo on Aug. 29. He said he didn’t get stressed when the final cuts were made two days later.
“I never really worried about that,” he said. “When the day was approaching, I really didn’t think too much about it. Whatever happens, happens. I can only control what I can control.”
Boyd said Rhodes and Waynes have been providing pointers as Sunday’s game approaches. He said Hill, his former teammate at Texas, also has given advice.
Hill knows about being thrown into the fire in his first game. As an undrafted rookie last year, Hill got in for four second-quarter plays against San Francisco in the opener after Waynes suffered a knee injury, and was beaten on a 14-yard reception by tight end George Kittle. Hill improved as the season went along, and went on to start three games.