Herrera dealing post-injury blues

Anthony Herrera is trying to stay positive while waiting for surgery on his knee. The intense guard wants to stay around his teammates and do everything he can, even though playing this year anymore isn't an option.

Through four games of the 2007 season, the Vikings went into their bye week with a 1-3 record and were looking to become a dominating run-first offense. Despite Peterson rolling up three 100-yard games in that initial four-game stretch, a change was deemed necessary.

As the Vikings came out of their bye Oct. 14, 2007, Anthony Herrera was inserted in place of Artis Hicks as the starting right guard as the Vikings went into Chicago looking to reclaim their season. In his first game as a starter, Peterson ran 20 times for a team-record 224 yards and three touchdowns – two of which came on holes created in part by Herrera. Three weeks later, A.D. set an NFL record with 296 yards on 30 carries and three more touchdowns. Herrera has been the starter ever since.

After more than three years as a full-time starter, Herrera is going to find himself back on the sidelines Sunday – not because he wasn't doing his job, but because he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Sunday's loss to Green Bay.

Herrera tore the ACL in his left knee and said that, as devastating as the injury is to him both professionally and personally, it's one of the inherent hazards of his chosen profession.

"It's part of the game and it's part of the risk you take when you go out there every Sunday," Herrera said. "That's why, when you talk to the guys, you always say you have to play lights out because you never know which play is the last play."

The injury happened in the first quarter of the Green Bay game and, although his teammates have watched film of it, Herrera has opted out. When asked if the tear happened when his cleat got stuck in the turf, Herrera said he had to take the word of others as to exactly what took place.

"From what I've heard, yeah," Herrera said. "I haven't still haven't looked at it. I won't look at it. It's not something I want to see."

Shockingly, despite feeling the burn of the tear and the blood that began to flow into it and cause it to swell up, he didn't leave the game immediately. Having never suffered such an injury, he knew there was problem but wasn't immediately aware of its severity.

"I knew something was going on," Herrera said. "I didn't know exactly what it was. I tried to play through it – I played for about five more plays. I pulled and tried to lock on a guy and he pushed back on me. That's when I realized I didn't have strength in (my knee) and that's when I took myself out."

He said the process in front of him is going to be a long and arduous one – a far cry from the offseason he had envisioned. With a delay of a week or two to have surgery – a requirement so the post-injury swelling goes away and some range of motion returns – the estimated rehab time is six to eight months.

"That's pretty much a whole year," Herrera said, shaking his head. "You've just got to stay positive. Talking to teammates and other people that have been through it, a major part of the rehab is mental – being mentally able to trust the doctor that's doing the surgery, the people that are helping you rehab and staying positive yourself."

Staying positive won't be easy, because the road to rehabilitation from a torn ACL is a time-consuming, painful process. Fortunately, he said, the medical, training and support staff with the Vikings is extremely positive and have done wonders in the rehab of players like E.J. Henderson and Cedric Griffin. He said that, as grim as the next few months are going to be, having a friendly support team around him will help him as he already starts looking ahead to the 2011 season.

‘We've got a great training staff here," Herrera said. "They are going to work me really hard, so I'll be back by training camp. I'll be ready to go. I'll be around the locker room and keep pushing the guys and make sure everybody's upbeat. We've got some more games to go."

The hardest part for Herrera won't be the long, strenuous rehab process. It will be not being able to be on the field with his teammates. Going home to recuperate isn't an option, because he doesn't believe he could watch games like a fan. He wants to be with them – home and road – until the 2010 season comes to an end for everyone.

"It's going to be rough," Herrera said. "I don't think I will be able to watch it at home. Hopefully, once we get everything going, I'll be able to be on the sidelines with the fellas during the games. It will kill me to sit at home and look at it. It will be alright. I'll still be with the guys and watching film with them."

Herrera said the setback comes at a time when he was starting to feel as though he was playing his best, the game was slowing down for him and he was entrenched in his starting spot and not looking over his shoulder. This setback is going to be a blow to his progress, but he said it will only make him more determined to return better than ever next season.

"It's extremely tough, putting in all that hard work and letting your body of work build and it was coming up to a good peak for me," Herrera said. "Then this happens, but everything happens for a reason. You never know what it is right now, but everything happens for a reason. I'll be back next year stronger, faster, in better shape and ready to go."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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