Brinkley attacking his rehab

While middle linebacker E.J. Henderson missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury, his backup, Jasper Brinkley, is out for the season with a hip injury. Brinkley discussed his progress after surgery and the mental side of dealing with his season being over.

Players seem to move through the locker room with a quick pace, so seeing Jasper Brinkley slowly making his way to his locker is out of place.

Brinkley is two weeks removed from hip surgery that ended his 2011 season before it could begin. As Brinkley used crutches to ease his way to his locker, he did so by himself – an unfortunate byproduct of being an injured player who isn't mixing it up in helmet and pads with his teammates.

While still in the formative stages of his rehabilitation, Brinkley said he is looking at the process with a positive attitude and that the surgery was a success and the recovery clock has started ticking.

"It's coming along good," Brinkley said. "All you can do is take it a day at a time. I'm making sure that I'm following everything that [head athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman and the guys are telling me. We have a great training staff and I know they'll get me back to playing where I'm supposed to be. I'm not worried about any setbacks. My focus right now is paying attention and doing it to a T."

The road to recovery is more like a goat path with a lot of potholes. It's a road nobody wants to take. Things that most of us take for granted, like rolling over in bed, can be the cause of sharp pain that, as an athlete, can be a frightening concern. A football players with one good leg is no longer a football player.

The rehab process isn't something new to Brinkley. Early in what was supposed to be his senior season at South Carolina, in the fourth game of the year against LSU, Brinkley saw his football life flash before his eyes. He learned a lot from the experience, being fortunate to get a medical redshirt four games into the season that allowed him to return to the Gamecocks in 2008. He said what he learned through that process has made him prepared for the long journey ahead to return to 100 percent.

"I had a torn LCL [lateral collateral ligament]," Brinkley said. "It put me out a year. So this isn't my first time around. I definitely know what this is going to be about to get it healed and back to being right. What I'm doing now is seeing the game from a different side. I'm watching and doing reps in my head."

One of the most difficult parts of the process is being removed from his teammates. While he is still a member of the team, it's hard to transition to being an outsider in his own football family.

"There's a part of you that does feel that you are a little bit off to the side," Brinkley said. "I'm welcome to sit in and watch film, so I definitely do that now and then. But right now the main goal is to get back to the point where I can run."

Brinkley said that the rehab process is as much or more mental as it is physical. Bodies heal at their own speed, but the vigor with which someone aggressively approaches the rehabilitation process is just as different between individuals. Brinkley said his focus is sharp on attacking the rehab process like he would going after a running back on a sweep.

"It definitely is up to the individual, whoever it is," Brinkley said. "How much does he or she want it? How hard is he or she willing to work at it? That's how I see it. I know I want to get back to where I was or even better. It's going to be a process and I'm going to have to take it one step at a time and follow the protocol. I'm ready to go as far as they'll let me and not have any setbacks. When I come back, I want to come back 100 percent and get back to where I was before this happened."


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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