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Sheppard eyes starting role with Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Lito Sheppard was looking for more than a run at a Super Bowl when he decided to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. He was eyeing a starting job as well.

The cornerback signed a one-year deal with the Vikings on Wednesday, in part because he was joining a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations and in part because the Vikings are banged up in the secondary.

"I definitely wanted to go in and start," Sheppard said during a conference call on Thursday. "And given this situation, the predicament, I definitely have that opportunity."

Starting cornerback Cedric Griffin tore the ACL in his left knee in the NFC title game loss at New Orleans in January. The Vikings have been encouraged by his performance in rehab, but it would be a surprise if he is back to 100 percent by the start of the season.

The other starting cornerback, Antoine Winfield, missed six games last season with a foot injury and will turn 33 in June, so the Vikings made adding depth at the position a priority this offseason.

Sheppard spent the first seven seasons of his career in Philadelphia, where Vikings head coach Brad Childress and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier got their first looks at him.

"Coach Frazier and I have seen him up close and personal and we know what he can bring to our team on and off the field," Childress said in a statement. "We look forward to him being a Viking."

Sheppard intercepted 18 passes during his time with the Eagles and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006. But he missed 10 games with injuries the past three years, including five in his only season with the New York Jets in 2009.

The Jets benched him in the AFC title game in favor of second-year cornerback Dwight Lowery, then cut him in March before he could earn a $10 million roster bonus.

"My past three years have been a tough road as far as off-the-field situations, and I think with this situation, this predicament, I think I can put all that behind me and we can move forward," said Sheppard, who will wear No. 29 in purple. "But those guys'll be able to tell you once the season starts and they see me out there."