Michael Mauti is finding a silver lining in a trio of knee surgeries.
The first of three seventh-round draft picks for the Vikings this year, Mauti entered that all-important weekend knowing that three surgeries to repair torn anterior cruciate ligaments in his knees (twice on the left, once on the right) would hurt his stock.
Yet he is convinced that the experience of rehabilitating each knee once before has made him smarter about the process.
"It's been smoother for sure," he said of the third time around. "You get a tough break. You've just got to bounce back. I know how to do that. This has been the smoothest just because I know what to do, when to do it, how to do it. I'm getting better each time, unfortunately."
He also knows there might not be a better NFL team to take over his third rehab than the Vikings, who have had success stories with Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway and Heath Farwell, among others. All three of them returned to productivity the following season after they tore their ACLs, and two of them were linebackers, just like Mauti.
"They know what they're doing with the rehab and that stuff so I'm just ready to get going," Mauti said after being mostly an observer early in rookie minicamp last week. "They've had a bunch of guys go through it. They've got a good program obviously in what they do. It speaks for itself, so I'm just anxious to get going and get to work."
He said he talked extensively with Vikings athletic trainer Eric Sugarman after the rookie linebacker arrived in Minnesota last week. Sugarman was the one that assured Rick Spielman "8,000 times," according to the general manager, that Mauti gets a passing medical grade from the Vikings. Sugarman and Mauti discussed philosophies of the rehab process and timetables.
"It's not all the much different. It's just a matter of different philosophies and different things," Mauti said. "Obviously they know what they're doing with Adrian Peterson and a couple of their guys that have gone through and succeeded the following year and come back strong. There is no doubt in my mind I'll be able to do that. You've got to get after it and I'm looking forward to it."
Last weekend, Mauti went through some of the lighter agility drills and stayed mentally in tune with everything going on during full-team defensive work. Whether it was installation sessions or full-team work against the offense, Mauti took a prominent spot at the back of the defense where he could see everything going on in front of him, similar to angle he would see from his middle linebacker spot, only about 15 yards deeper so he was behind the safeties and out of the action.
"I'm learning a lot, taking mental reps. It's a lot of information in one day and one weekend," he said. "I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and retain it. And then I'll have a lot to study over this next week and when we get back for OTAs."
Organized team activities don't start until May 28. For now, he has ramped up to sprinting, is going through physical therapy and lifting weights, but he is limited in the amount and severity of cutting he can do.
Still, he said it is "absolutely" his goal to be ready for the team's first training camp practice at the end of July, a timeline Spielman is anticipating, too.
So what have the previous two rounds of rehabilitation from ACL surgery taught Mauti?
"I think a lot of it is mentally, how you focus your mental energy, healing yourself and getting good rest and all the little things that add up over the span of eight months," he said. "Really what I learned it's not what you do in your rehab therapy, it's how you do it – if you attack it and you have that mindset. I've gotten a little bit better as I've gone through it a couple times."
The hardest part may be having patience with the process.
"Absolutely. Just having a conversation with the doctors here and the trainers, it's just all about being patient and not getting ahead of yourself," he said. "I've been through this process, trying to get back. It's all about knowing where you're at and having a feeling for your body. I think I've got a pretty good feel for that. At the time, I know how to push the envelope without going overboard. I have no doubt in my mind I'll be back for the preseason."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Mauti relying on his experience in rehab
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