Hutchinson puts team above streak

Guard Steve Hutchinson ended a 123-game streak of games played when he sat last week with a broken thumb. He said the streak never factored into his decision. He's set to test the thumb and hand again Friday.

With so much talk about whether Brett Favre's ironman streak will continue this week, something that got lost in the hoopla of last Sunday's game with Buffalo was the ending of another streak – that of guard Steve Hutchinson.

Hutchinson had never missed a game with the Vikings, despite playing most of last season with a painful shoulder injury. It wasn't a knee or an ankle or a shoulder that sidelined him Sunday. It was his right thumb, which was broken early in the Redskins game. He played through the pain on Nov. 28, but was unable to go last week against Buffalo – snapping a 123-game streak that Hutchinson began in 2003 with Seattle.

While the injury isn't going to get better until he has a chance to rest it, Hutchinson said it is improving – at least in terms of the swelling and pain associated with it.

"That's the way injuries go, but I'd say I'm doing a fairly good job," Hutchinson said. "It's feeling better than it did a week ago, so I'd say there's progress being made."

Hutchinson said he wasn't paying attention to the length of his streak and seemed a bit surprised that is was so extensive – having lasted more than seven-and-a-half years. He said the streak wasn't on his mind when the decision was made to sit out, because, having missed time in 2002 with an injury, he wasn't overly concerned about keeping the streak alive simply for streak's sake.

"I missed 12 games my second year with a broken leg," Hutchinson said. "It's been a while since I haven't played in a game. As far as trying to break any streak records, that wasn't going to happen. Any time you miss a game, you want to be out there."

The Hutchinson injury opened the opportunity for rookie Chris DeGeare to make his first career start and DeGeare said Hutchinson was extremely helpful during Sunday's win over Buffalo.

"Both Hutch and (center) John Sullivan were helping me a lot with making reads and identifications," DeGeare said. "They both thought I played pretty well and I think I gained some confidence from the coaches that, if needed to start some more, I can handle it."

Will DeGeare start again this week? That remains up in the air. Hutchinson practiced on a limited basis Wednesday but not on Thursday and likely won't know until Friday or later whether he will be available to help slow down the Giants ferocious pass rush. DeGeare said he didn't find out last week until he showed up in the locker room at the Metrodome Sunday morning that he would be starting and said he expects much of the same this Sunday.

Hutchinson said he's preparing as though he will return to the lineup, but that will be a determination made after he and the coaches decide whether the cast on his right hand will permit him to do his job this week. So, is there any noticeable difference from last week?

"It's still noticeably broken," Hutchinson said. "We'll see whatever sort of progress a broken bone can make in a week."
If there is good news concerning the injury, Hutchinson said, it's that the injury isn't expected to require offseason surgery. It will heal on its own and, at this point, the biggest question for Hutch becomes pain management and trying to get as much use out of his casted right hand as possible.

Hutchinson said he tried to go last week, but the swelling around the injured thumb was such after trying to push it in Friday's practice that the decision was made to give it a week of rest in hopes it would improve for this week. Hutchinson said he isn't sure what the final decision for this week will be, but said he isn't experiencing the same level of pain he did last week.

"I'm going to try to practice and see how that works," Hutchinson said. "(The deciding factor to sit) was being able to do my job. There was a lot of pain and swelling in there."

As he looks to start a new games-played streak this week, Hutchinson said he doesn't mind starting over. When it came down to it last week, the streak never factored in. The question in his mind and the minds of the coaches wasn't about adding a 124th straight game to his streak, but whether having him in the starting lineup would enhance the Vikings' chances of winning their fifth game of the season. In the end, it was determined it would be better for him and the team if he sat it out.

"The streak – I could care less about that," Hutchinson said. "Being able to play and do your job to help the team win, I didn't feel like I could do that."

The issue for Sunday will be a combination of factors – whether he can get more use from his entombed right hand, whether he can play at the level that is expected of him and whether he can deal with the pain. If nothing else, Hutch hasn't lost his sense of humor. When asked how problematic that pain is, Hutchinson put it in perspective.

"It's not as painful as this interview," Hutchinson said.


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.

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