Greg Childs was starting to emerge as a potential starting fill-in during Jerome Simpson's three-game suspension to start the season, but after tearing the patellar tendons in both of his knees Saturday night the ramifications could run deep … for Childs, for other Vikings receivers and for the team overall.
First, Childs. The Vikings had high hopes for their rookie receiver this summer, even if a calf injury limited his availability for part of May and June workouts.
"(He's) very smart," receivers coach George Stewart said at the end of June. "With Greg, he has a chance to help us as on X receiver … but hopefully we can get Greg up to speed. He missed a bunch of time early in OTAs because of that knee. He will be OK. His learning curve, we just have to give him a chance to learn what he's doing and once he gets that down he will help us."
That might never happen now, considering Childs also tore the patellar tendon his right knee in October 2010. Stewart himself knows the difficultly of coming back from one torn patella tendon.
"That was a horrific injury," Stewart said of Childs' injury at the University of Arkansas. "A patella tendon is just horrific injury for anybody to have, especially a receiver because there's so much cutting – there is so much pressure on that tendon and plus it was a surgical repair. Like I said, I can speak to it because I had it."
"Hopefully" meant Stewart wasn't completely convinced it would happen, and that was after just one torn patellar tendon. Now that he's done it twice on his right knee and once on his left, it's anybody guess if he can ever come close to replicating his productivity from the first half of his junior season, when he may have been a first-round pick if he hadn't torn it the first time.
Stewart, like Childs and Jarius Wright, went to the University of Arkansas. He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as an offensive lineman in 1981 but spent the season on injured reserve. He said his patellar tendon injury caused him to get out of football, saying it is an 18-month injury. After tearing each of them once and one of them twice, Childs' career has to be in doubt.
It's a shame for Childs, for sure, but it is also a potential blow to the team's receiving corps. Stewart said Childs most closely resembled former Detroit Lions star receiver Herman Moore, at least from a body structure standpoint, going 6-foot-3 with a "big, long body with long levers."
Last year in free agency, the Vikings went after another big-bodied receiver in Michael Jenkins. The 6-foot-4 Jenkins finished second to Percy Harvin on the team with 38 catches for 466 yards and three receiving touchdowns, despite missing the final five games with his own, much less serious, knee injury.
Jenkins appears back at full strength after appearing to still show signs of the injury in June. That's good news for him and the Vikings, as he may have been a fringe roster player if Childs had been available. Childs has the advantage in deep speed and short-area quickness, but Jenkins is a more physical player with NFL experience. That experience might have been a double-edged sword, however, as his salary ($2.5 million each in 2012 and 2013) and the Vikings' improved depth in the receiving corps may have put him in a precarious position come roster cutdown time. But with Childs out and Simpson serving a three-game suspension, Jenkins and possibly Devin Aromashodu have moved up a peg on the depth chart.
With Harvin, Jenkins, Stephen Burton and Wright available to start the season, and an offense that is focusing on tight ends more, the Vikings should be able to survive while Simpson serves his suspension, but there is little doubt they would have been better served with Childs as another available option.
The Vikings knew Childs' injury history well, but when a receiver that might have had first-round value before his first knee injury dropped to the fourth round, they felt the reward outweighed the risk. They also took that risk in free agency when they gave tight end John Carlson a five-year, $25 million contract despite him missing the entire 2011 season with the Seattle Seahawks. The same was true with Geoff Schwartz, who missed last year with the Carolina Panthers because of a hip injury.
Now Childs is likely out for the season, Schwartz for the preseason and Carlson likely for at least another week. Sometimes the injury risks pay off – the Vikings had Adrian Peterson fall to them in the 2007 draft because of his collarbone injury – but several of their risk-reward options from the last five months are putting them in a position about as awkward as Childs was when his knees crashed to the ground Saturday night.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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