MANKATO, Minn. — Since Minnesota Vikings rookie receiver Greg Childs was diagnosed with torn patellar tendons in both knees, his long-term prognosis and whether he would play for Minnesota again has become a viable question.
Childs recovered from a torn patellar tendon while in college to be drafted by the Vikings in the fourth round of April’s draft and there was no doubt in his mind that he would return when he spoke with Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
“He was distraught as you would expect,” Frazier said Monday. “It’s hard. But he really had a frame of mind where, because he’s experienced adversity before, he really feels as though he’s going to be able to bounce back from this and he’s going to work extremely hard and get back to playing again. That was his attitude, and those were the words that he shared with me: ‘Coach, I’ll be back. I’m going to, just like I did before, work as hard as I can and I’ll be out here to help the Vikings.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s a great attitude, under the circumstances. Great attitude.'”
Childs suffered tears to the patellar tendons in both knees as he tried to make a catch on the second-to-last play in Minnesota scrimmage on Saturday night. Childs jumped awkwardly for a pass and fell to the ground untouched, screaming in pain. He was carted off the field after being tended to by the team’s medical staff and an MRI confirmed the devastating news.
The Vikings waived-injured Childs on Monday and he will be placed on injured reserve when he clears waivers. Childs was set to have surgery Monday and will have both legs immobilized for a few weeks following surgery. Frazier said that Childs’ didn’t have any additional damage to any of the other ligaments in the knee.
Two players in recent history, Cleveland Browns defensive back Gary Baxter and Chicago Bears receiver Wendell Davis, have both tried to return to the NFL after suffering tears to both patellar tendons, but neither played another game following their injuries.
“The fact that he ruptured both patellar tendons and is going to have to have surgery on both knees, that’s a hard one,” Frazier said. “We don’t know what the long-term prognosis is. We’re hoping for the best. But our players, it was hard for them. Obviously it’s hard for Greg and his family. We’re all pulling for him through this situation.”
Childs was considered one of the top emerging receivers in the nation at Arkansas before suffering a torn patellar tendon in his right knee in a game. He posted 94 catches for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns over 21 games his sophomore season and eight games as a junior before his injury. He missed the end of his junior year and never was the same, tallying just 21 catches for 240 yards his senior season, despite playing 11 games.
Minnesota took a chance, drafting him with the third of its three fourth-round picks in April and believed he would eventually regain the form he showed earlier in his career at Arkansas. He was slowed during minicamp with a calf injury, but was starting to return to form at the beginning of training camp, nearly 18 months away from his first surgery.
And now he will start another long road back.
“He’s got a tough road ahead of him,” said Frazier, who’s own career was cut short by a knee injury. “There’s no question about it. You’re talking about both knees. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be tough. But part of what helps a guy make it back, if he’s able to make it back from an injury like that, is approaching your rehab with the right attitude and the right focus. And some of the advances that have been made medically sometimes help it as well, but your attitude and your focus in this situation is probably what’s going to get you through some dark days. There are going to be some tough days ahead for him. And it’s going to be tough.”
The Vikings re-signed A.J. Love on Monday after waiving Childs. Love was cut on Saturday as the team tried to compensate for injured offensive linemen by signing two rookie guards. Frazier said the team is always looking for help on the outside, but wasn’t sure if they would bring in any other receivers.
Childs’ injury could open the door even more for receivers Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu and Stephen Burton, who have been working behind starters Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson during training camp.
Burton was a 2011 draft pick that has opened eyes during the offseason, but has dealt with several injuries in his short time with the Vikings.
“Stephen is coming along,” Frazier said. “He missed those early days with his toe, but we’re seeing some progress. There’s still some things based on what we saw in the scrimmage Saturday night and practice on Saturday night that he needs to continue to work on. But, he’s coming along. He’s at a good pace for us. He showed some things in the OTAs. He’s showed some things in the limited time he got a season ago that he has the potential to be a factor in our offense. So, we’re hoping that he’ll keep coming, both on special teams as well as a wide receiver. He’s showed some kick return ability and he showed the ability to make the hard catch.
Aromashodu started for Minnesota at the end of last season as injuries hit the position. He finished with 26 catches for 468 yards and a touchdown. Jenkins was second on the team with 38 catches and had 466 yards receiving and three touchdowns while missing the final five games because of a knee injury.
“Devin, I think he’s much, much improved,” Frazier said. “One of the things we wanted to see out of Devin was improved route running and showing he can make those hard catches on a consistent basis. With his length and his speed, we like some of the things he’s able to do and he’s beginning to show that more and more at practice.
“For Michael, it’s a window of opportunity. He’s the veteran of the group and we rely a lot on his experience. He and Christian had developed a rapport prior to his injury a season ago and we’re going to need that presence, along with his size, to make that difficult catch even when he’s covered. So, we’ve got to continue to see him come along physically and these preseason games will be a part of that.”
Schwartz set for surgery, Fusco still competing: Frazier said offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz is scheduled to have surgery for a sports hernia on Monday and said he would have a better timeframe for Schwartz’ recovery following surgery.
Originally given a four-to-six week recovery time for Schwartz, Frazier acknowledged Monday it could be longer based on what is discovered during the surgery.
“We’ll know after the surgery,” Frazier said. “It could be anywhere from four weeks to eight to 10 weeks, so we won’t know anything until after the surgery.”
Schwartz, who was competing with Brandon Fusco for the starting right guard spot after being signed as a free agent this offseason, could potentially be put on the physically unable to perform list at the start of the season, which would keep him out at least the first six weeks though Frazier wasn’t sure if that would be the case for Schwartz.
Meanwhile, Frazier said Fusco wouldn’t be automatically given the starting right guard spot. Fusco, in his second year after being drafted in the sixth round in 2011, has taken most of the first-team snaps at right guard and all of them since Schwartz’s injury.
Frazier said Chris DeGeare, who spent all of 2011 on the practice squad after starting the final five games of his rookie season in 2010 in place of injured guard Steve Hutchinson, would start to get some reps at the right guard spot to provide a challenge for Fusco. Backup lineman Joe Berger will also get a look at right guard. Berger has practiced extensively as the backup center in training camp and has NFL starting experience at guard.
“We’re not quite ready to say that Brandon is the guy opening up against Jacksonville,” Frazier said of the first regular season game on Sept. 9. “We want to see him in some game situations against other teams in the preseason and then make a declaration as we go. So, we’ll continue to have some competition at that position.”