Kalil rebounding, blocking out critics

Matt Kalil has improved the last two games, he said, after admitting to a bad performance in Week 2. He’s heard from friends, his brother and his dad, but the biggest improvement comes with starting to trust his surgically repaired knee.

Matt Kalil has heard it from his dad, Frank, when he’s struggling. He’s received encouragement from his brother, Ryan, a center for the Carolina Panthers.

To say it’s been an interesting year for the Minnesota Vikings left tackle might be understating the case. It started with a surgery to his right knee during the offseason that remains a consistent reason why Kalil believes he struggled early in the season.

“It took me a while to start trusting my knee and stuff like that. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with it, but it takes a while to get back into it,” Kalil said.

The worst game for Kalil – whether it’s by his assessment of that of the analytical site Pro Football Focus – was against the New England Patriots in Week 2. The Vikings lost 30-7 and defensive end Chandler Jones had two sacks and eight tackles. After five weeks, Jones has 2.5 sacks.

After three straight weeks of getting negative grades from Pro Football Focus, Kalil has had his two best games of the season the last two outings, according to grades given by the site.

“Good games or bad games, I’m looking at things I can always fix. Obviously in a game where you’re behind, the Patriots, and you pass a lot, we might have had 35, 40 pass sets and I got beat on three and that’s a bad game,” Kalil said. “So, it’s definitely a tough job we have. But, you know, that’s why I play left tackle. I like the competition, I like the guys I face, and I like going out there and competing. I wouldn’t let one bad game ruin my whole season. It’s just stuff I’ve got to improve on.”

Earlier in the season, head coach Mike Zimmer indicated the media is paying too much attention to Kalil’s bad plays, saying he is doing well for the majority of games but admitting that the left tackle tended to get down on himself too quickly.

Kalil said that might have been true at the start of the season.

“I’ve never really been hurt before where I’ve missed any time. I missed OTAs and when I came back in camp, probably still lagging a little bit and then I’d get beat and stuff because I wasn’t to where I was,” he said. “I think the confidence probably diminished a little bit. I’ve had a few good games in a row now to where I’m building my confidence back up. Obviously I got help from my brother and stuff like that. It’s good to have kind of a role model like that (saying) you’re going to get beat, you can’t get down and you’ve got to go to the next play, especially at left tackle you get beat. (If) you get down on yourself, those guys smell that blood. You just kind of brush it off and keep playing. It’s part of the game.”

One thing Kalil can’t be criticized for is not trying to play through pain and injury. He had back and knee injuries last year but was the only offensive player for the Vikings to not miss a snap, playing in all 1,041 of them. Through five weeks this year, he is one of three offensive players to be in for all 335 snaps, joining fellow offensive linemen Charlie Johnson and John Sullivan.

Kalil said his brother Ryan helped get him recover after the tough games earlier in the season.

“Like after the Patriots game or something he would call. He knew I was down,” Matt said. “He knows how I am. I’m my toughest critic, so obviously a game like that, I’m going to be not too pleased with my play. But it’s just brotherly advice to get my confidence back up. That helped a little bit, but I’ll be alright.”

His dad, who used to take him and Ryan to a park to working on blocking technique when they were growing up, played a different role after a rough game.

“Yeah, my dad is a little worse,” Matt said. “If you don’t have a perfect game, my dad is, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ But dad’s dad. The brother has a little more of an approach because he’s played in this generation. He gets it a little bit.”

Matt said it helped to hear Ryan talk about how Ryan’s former teammate, Jordan Gross, handled a bad game. In fact, it helped Matt to hear that Jordan even had some bad games. Matt studied Gross quite a bit and characterized him as a “role model.”

Kalil said he doesn’t go on Twitter much during the season, and that’s always been his routine, in good years and bad. Ultimately, winning helps calm the critics, and the Vikings could use more that.

“I have people tell me that: oh, you’re just getting blasted. I don’t read that stuff because if you do, then you’re definitely going to get down on yourself,” Kalil said. “I know what I have to do as a player. I’m more than confident in my ability and what I can do. It’s just about staying persistent, working your technique. It’s as simple as that.”

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