MANKATO, Minn. – A welcome sight as the Minnesota Vikings began training camp practices Friday was the lack of players relegated to the sidelines, in particular starting center John Sullivan, who missed the team’s offseason workouts because he was recovering from microfracture surgery on his left knee.
Sullivan, who played through the injury at the end of last season and then had surgery in the offseason, was practicing in his usual spot with the first-team offensive line Friday. Sullivan won’t be taking all of the first-team repetitions during practices as the team eases him back, but he was ready to participate in the first practice of training camp.
“I’m just going to follow the plan that the coaches and trainers have put in for me and try to get better every single day,” Sullivan said, stating he feels, “great.”
Sullivan said the injury started with a degenerative condition in his knee and then worsened in Week 13 last season at Green Bay. Sullivan is continuing his recovery plan that had him working out separate of the team during the offseason program for organized team activities and minicamp.
He said he isn’t concerned about any ongoing issues with the knee, though he understands having his reps limited during training camp.
“I believe that’s part of the plan,” Sullivan said. “But at the same time, how I feel I’ll be communicating with the coaches, communicating with the trainers, trying to help them give me the appropriate level of work. Obviously if I could do everything, that would be the preference, but that’s not totally up to me.”
Sullivan returns to anchor the middle of an offensive line that returns each of the five starters from last season, starting all 16 games together.
“There’s no issue with limited reps and the mental side of things,” Sullivan said. “The hardest part would be conditioning. It’s hard to get in shape for playing football without actually playing football. Tom Kanavy and our strength staff are some of the best in the business, so I’ll be working with them.”
Coach Leslie Frazier said Sullivan’s availability is important early in camp, even if it’s in a limited role.
“The fact that he can participate, not just stand on the side and watch, is good for our young players, is good for our offensive line,” Frazier said. “So, we can continue to develop that continuity that we need and have that cohesiveness that is necessary to have a good offensive line. Now we are going to have to limit some of his work. We can’t just throw everything at him early on. We’re going to bring him along. But the fact that he’s able to participate is good for our team.”
Second-year receiver Greg Childs, still recovering from tearing the patellar tendon in both knees last training camp, and undrafted rookie linebacker Nathan Williams, who had ankle surgery in the offseason, were added to the physically unable to perform list to start training camp. Childs was expected to be placed on the PUP list and Williams wasn’t ready to practice after his surgery.
Rookie linebacker Michael Mauti, a seventh-round draft pick in April, is coming off his third reconstructive knee surgery in four years and was very limited in team drills during minicamp. However, Mauti was deemed ready after working out for coaches on Friday morning.
“He moved around well enough to where our trainers felt like we needed to get him on the field, let him do football stuff with the coaches,” Frazier said. “Relief about it, sure. We wanted to be able to take a look at it and evaluate it, and now we get a chance to do that. I know he’s anxious to get out there. He’s a guy who loves football. It will be good for him and good for us.”
Frazier said he wasn’t sure when Childs would be ready to be activated and wouldn’t speculate if he would start on the regular-season PUP list.
Allen ready for full duty: Defensive end Jared Allen, another player coming off offseason surgery, participated fully in practice Friday. Allen had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and surgery on his knee.
“When I was talking with him yesterday, he feels as healthy as he’s felt in a long time,” Frazier said. “There’s no question in my mind he should be a better player based on the fact that he’s playing without that shoulder nagging him throughout the year like it did a season ago and the work we did on his knee as well. The one thing about that is, it doesn’t necessarily equate to more sacks, the fact that he’ll be healthier. All it means is people are still probably going to block him the same way, but he’ll be a more effective football player. But it won’t necessarily equate to numbers. But it should be able to help him be a better player for our football team.” Peterson ready, but will take things easy: Adrian Peterson showed last season he didn’t need much work in training camp to have a big season. And Minnesota will be taking things easy with the MVP running back.
Peterson worked with the first team in practice Friday in his customary spot, but he will have his reps limited during training camp and the preseason.
“I was teasing him; I said, ‘I don’t think you’re in as good of shape as you were in a year ago,'” Frazier said. “And he looked at me and he goes, ‘We’ll see. We’ll see,” with a smile. But it’s good, it’s good for our team that he’s here, he’s able to participate and be involved from the very beginning. It didn’t happen a season ago, so this is far better.”
Peterson, who didn’t miss any time during the offseason program despite having his own surgery for a sports hernia, said he won’t lobby for more carries in the preseason and is OK if he doesn’t play in the preseason.
“It worked out pretty well last year,” Peterson said, later adding: “To be honest with you, I feel like seven years in, I can come in two weeks, get out there and be ready to roll. It’s all about getting your mind right and being ready.”
Frazier indicated Peterson will see action in preseason games, but he doesn’t feel Peterson needs the work.
“We don’t have to have a lot of work for Adrian Peterson in games,” Frazier said. “It’s not like we aren’t sure how he’s going to respond. So we’ve got to be smart with our approach in the preseason, how we want to handle him in practices as well. … He’ll get some work in the preseason. It won’t be like last year where he didn’t get any work. We’re going to get him some work in some ballgames.”
Meanwhile, Peterson said he still believes he can reach 2,500 rushing yards this season and setting a new league record, but he downplayed his predictions a bit on Friday.
“It’s something I think I can do,” Peterson said. “I set my goals and then everybody else keeps bringing it up and bringing it up. That’s not my main focus. My main focus is winning a championship. (Reaching 2,500 yards) is a goal of mine. It’s something I want to accomplish, if it’s something that happens. If not, it doesn’t matter as long as we win.”