Sullivan staying strong after knee surgery

Center John Sullivan hasn't missed a beat (or rep) because of his surgically repaired knee while hoping to keep the stability on the offensive line intact.

With an offensive line that saw all five starters play every game, center John Sullivan is hoping he isn't the one breaking the streak this year.

So far, Sullivan avoided starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list after microfracture surgery on his left knee in February, but Sullivan, the coaches and the trainers were all expecting that his reps would be, at a minimum, monitored.

"I believe that's part of the plan, but how I feel (is what) I'll be communicating with the coaches and communicating with the trainers and try to help them give the appropriate level of work," Sullivan said on the opening day of camp. "If I could do everything, that would be my preference, but that's not totally up to me."

So far, so good. Sullivan hasn't missed a snap with the first-team offense.

The starting center has made it through almost a week of training camp without an issue, including two fully padded contact practices. The real tests will be as full practices stack one on top of another in the coming weeks of camp. He has worn a sleeve on his knee for some practices but didn't want to speculate on the probability he will be fully healthy by the start of the regular season.

"I don't want to put a number on it. When it comes to injuries, we have to be vague," he said. "I'm just going out there working hard every day. If anybody is 100 percent when the regular season finally rolls around, I'm hoping I'm there with them."

The Vikings had a fortunate and gritty run of health in their offensive line last year. The same combination of players made every start, and rarely came out of the game.

Left tackle Matt Kalil, Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt played every one of the team's 1,035 offensive snaps. Left guard Charlie Johnson missed only three snaps, and right guard Brandon Fusco played in 85 percent of the snaps while rotating with Geoff Schwartz, who is now with the Kansas City Chiefs.

They were a big part of Adrian Peterson's 2,097-yard season and improved the pass protection for Christian Ponder over past years.

"It would be hard to ask them to be much better in the running game. They did a nice job pass protecting last year," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We do want to minimize our sacks and stay out of those long-yardage situations. It's a terrific group. It is fun to have John Sullivan back – he is really the stabilizer. Matt Kalil has fewer unknowns than 12 months ago so we are excited about that crew."

The addition of Kalil made a big difference in the pass protection that Christian Ponder received last year.

"Matt's been fantastic since Day 1. Obviously there is a learning curve for every young player in the NFL, but we didn't change things around for him," Sullivan said. "He's part of the system. Players change for the system. The system doesn't change for the players. He's been fantastic from the start."

Sullivan, who said it was a degenerative injury that worsened in the first Green Bay game last year, knows the importance of continuity on the offensive line.

"It's great. Continuity is very important in general but especially on the offensive line where you rely on the guys you play next to so often," he said. "To have five guys playing together as long we have and then another year in this system, it's only going to benefit us."


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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