Rookie linebacker Michael Mauti is well aware of what it takes to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He should be. He's done it two times previously and is well on his way to being back from his third time tearing an ACL.
The Vikings' seventh-round pick was going through individual drills Tuesday at the team's first day of minicamp and wasn't surprised in the least by his progress.
"I'm cutting as hard as I can. Nothing is holding me back at this point," Mauti said. "At this point, just going at it hard and really just kind of teaching those muscles again to fire and be more explosive and get up to 100 percent, where I was."
Mauti declined to put a percentage on how close he was to full health at this point, but after his left ACL tore for the second time on Nov. 17, 2012, he is ready to get back on the practice field full time.
A little more than one month ago, Mauti was sprinting straight ahead and doing agility drills while the rest of the rookies were going through their first minicamp. That has progressed to individual drills and cutting this week, and he maintains that his goal is to be fully ready for the start of training camp (the Vikings' first practice is July 26).
"I'm feeling great right now. We're going to continue doing the stuff we've been doing and just kind of get acclimated and work up to that point where I'm ready to go when they give me the green light. Whenever that will be will depend on where I'm at. Right now, everything's on schedule," he said.
"It feels great, just to give the coaches something to see, like, hey, I'm not just standing around. Hey, this guy can actually contribute this season. I feel great doing what I'm doing, just to be kind of running around with the guys and going through the reps, it feels real good."
During his college career, Mauti tore his left ACL twice and his right one once. In between the injuries, however, he showed his potential and likely would have been about a fourth-round pick if healthy, according to one NFL scout.
In 2012, he had 95 tackles and three interceptions, both marks registering as the highest of his career, while playing in 11 games, which also tied for the most of his career.
For now, he is being limited to individual drills, some walk-through repetitions and shadowing the middle linebackers in certain portions of practice when the full-team defense is on the field. He has also done some dropping back into coverage.
Mostly, it's been about applying what he has been learning while watching the last six weeks, and the Vikings have noticed a focused individual.
"He seems to be a guy that is pretty driven. He has a good idea of what thinks he can accomplish and how he can get it done – a guy with a single focus, which is not a bad thing at the position we are asking him to play," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "A very focused guy, goal-oriented and has strong beliefs in his abilities and those are good traits to have when you are a linebacker."
While he may not be able to show his full potential physically, Mauti said he has been like a sponge mentally, trying to absorb everything that applies to him and the middle linebacker position.
The other part is getting to the point once again where he can trust his left knee.
"I think that's really almost half the battle is mental. The more you get out here and the more you kind of get all the drills and get more comfortable cutting and planting on that leg, the more comfortable I'll get," he said. "It's just a matter of repetition and getting back into it."
As for the timing of his return to a full practice regimen, he's not ready to declare any dates, but his experience in rehabbing surgically repaired ACLs has left him encouraged with his progress.
"I'm probably where I want to be right now. I wouldn't say ahead of schedule; I wouldn't say behind. I'm right where I want to be. I'm right where I expect to be," he said. "That's really a good plan for me personally. It's a process. You can't skip time. You've got to go through the process. It's a very tedious process, as you guys know. You've got to grind it out."
"… I won't take a step backwards. I'll continue to progress in my rehab."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Mauti on the mend, discusses progress
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