Knee kept Mauti from starting possibility

LB Michael Mauti might have had a chance at his first NFL start if not for tweaking his left knee last Sunday, but he still could see his most extensive defensive action with Erin Henderson out. Mauti, Leslie Frazier and Audie Cole discussed the situation.

If not for another bump in the road with Michael Mauti's knees, the seventh-round draft pick from Penn State might have had a chance to make his first start on defense.

Mauti, who has had three surgeries to repair the anterior cruciate ligaments in his knees, tweaked his left knee, the one that had two surgeries, Sunday in Seattle. He said Friday that structurally everything is fine, saying there was just some swelling that has now subsided and he won't be limited on Sunday.

If not for that mishap, Mauti might have been in line to replace Erin Henderson at middle linebacker Sunday. Henderson has been dealing with a personal issue that kept him away from practice this week and was ruled out on Friday. Head coach Leslie Frazier declined to go into details on Henderson's personal matter, but indicated on Thursday that Mauti would have received consideration as the starter if not for that knee injury.

"He jarred his knee on the turf at Seattle and it scared him a little bit. It was knee that he had the (latest) ACL surgery on," Frazier said of Mauti.

"He's been improving. He got some reps in that ballgame as well towards the end of the game. But his time will come."

He could receive some rotational time at middle linebacker, but second-year player Audie Cole will get the start and said he was "pumped" about the opportunity.

"The only time I ever feel pressure is when I don't feel prepared and I feel like I've prepared real well this week," Cole said. "The coaches have done a great job with me and I think I'm real into the game plan. I don't really feel pressured or nervous because of it."

Although the latest injury to Mauti isn't serious, it did rob him of some precious snaps on defense at the end of Sunday's game and limited him in practice.

So far this year, he has played only 11 snaps on defense, or 1.5 percent. CB Xavier Rhodes leads all rookies with 68 percent of the defensive snaps, followed by DT Sharrif Floyd (40 percent) and WR Cordarrelle Patterson (30 percent). LB Gerald Hodges, another Penn State product taken in the fourth round, has played only two snaps on defense and OL Jeff Baca, a sixth-round pick, has only one snap on offense. Seventh-rounders Travis Bond and Everett Dawkins didn't play a snap on offense and defense, respectively, before they were signed away from the Vikings practice squad.

Mauti has been trying to take advantage of every chance he has on defense.

"I'm pretty comfortable with that. It's just a matter of getting experience, getting more snaps with the bullets flying. That will just come with experience," Mauti said.

"It's faster and the guys are bigger and stronger (than in college). Linemen get up on you quicker, but it's all about you can't make false steps. You don't have time so you've just got to be smarter about your movements and stuff like that."

Mauti said he felt his explosiveness returned after a couple of games early in the season, and having a full training to prepare coming off of knee surgery helped immerse him back into the practice routine.

"I was feeling great once I was getting into the games," he said. "Once I got adjusted to the speed a little bit, now it's just football."

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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