EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Greg Childs promised he would return to the Minnesota Vikings, vowing to Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier he’d be back from a career-threatening injury.
Childs, a rookie receiver, went up for a pass in the team’s annual night scrimmage during training camp on Aug. 4 2012. Childs came down, fell to the ground and screamed in agony. He had torn the patellar tendon in each of his knees.
“There was never a doubt that I was ever going to play again,” Childs said Wednesday.
Many wondered. Childs never doubted himself. He was right.
Childs returned to practice for Minnesota on Wednesday for the first time in more than 15 months. The grueling rehabilitation process finally complete and Childs was able to join his teammates on the field.
“I’m excited for him,” quarterback Christian Ponder said. “He’s been working his butt off for a year now, over a year. I know he’s excited to get out there. We’ll see what he does. But just watching him run around, he looks good. He looks fast. He’s in shape.
“I can’t imagine being in the weight room for 14 months straight, just working out and not playing football. So I’m excited for him.”
Childs had been a weight room fixture. His 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame is chiseled from months of having nothing to do but rehab his knees and work out. He was running as soon as this summer and even caught passes from quarterbacks after the team’s offseason workouts. But he wasn’t ready to participate in football activities.
Childs, a fourth-round pick last year by Minnesota, started the season on the physically unable to perform list. On the final day he was eligible to return to practice, the Vikings granted him the chance.
“We’ll kind of ease him into it a little bit,” Frazier said. “We won’t give him a full practice; just give him a taste of it and find out where he is tomorrow.”
By league PUP rules, Childs had from the day after the conclusion of the season’s sixth weekend until the day after the conclusion of the 11th weekend to have Childs return to practice. Tuesday was the day after the 11th weekend and Minnesota informed the NFL he would indeed be ready to practice. If he wasn’t, the team would have had to place Childs on the injured reserve list or release him.
With Childs practicing Wednesday following Tuesday’s team off day, the Vikings now have 21 days for Childs to practice before they need to activate him, release him or put him on season-ending injured reserve.
“Of course, long time coming, as a matter of fact,” Childs said. “But, you know, things take time like this.”
Childs had been through it all once before, tearing the patellar tendon in one knee during his junior season at Arkansas. He returned for his senior season, but was never the same.
Minnesota took the chance of Childs returning to full speed and getting back to the promise he showed as a sophomore when he had 48 catches for 894 yards and seven touchdowns. Then, just two weeks into his first training camp, Childs was lost for the year, and many thought his career.
“I’m just not built to where I’m just going to fall into what everybody else thinks,” Childs said. “‘Oh, he got hurt. This type of injury he had, there’s no way he can come back, his career has to be done with.’ But since I was smaller, my dad always instilled in me, ‘If you want it, go get it. Don’t let anybody else deter you.'”
Childs always had his mind focused on returning, but even he fought threw some difficult days.
“You have great days, you have days not so good,” Childs said. “You have days when you come in sore, and you have days when you come in, ‘Ugh, I’m dealing with something else now.” Maybe I was doing something, and I was doing it well, but now something else is bugging me. But you’ve got to push through it.”
Childs said he knows he can’t rush his return and is sticking with the plan outlined to him by the team’s medical staff. But he did say he’d be returning full speed. He and the team have three more weeks now to decide the next step.
“I’m going to eventually get on the playing field,” Childs said. “I don’t know when. It could be by the end of the season or it could be the beginning of the next. But it’s going to be one of the two.”
Childs said questioning the comeback is natural, but he was able to push through the type of injury that ended the careers of Cleveland defensive back Gary Baxter and Chicago receiver Wendell Davis. Both suffered the same injury to both knees and never played again.
“If anything happens to you, it doesn’t go your way, you always tend to want to question,” Childs said. “But at the end of the day everything happens for a reason. You can’t really question the man’s plan upstairs. You just pick your head up and go. I could have just been like, ‘cool, I got hurt. This is what it is. And I’m just going to put my head down and this is going to be it.’ I chose to take a different path, to work as hard as I could and just defy the odds.”