Phil Loadholt was officially added to that growing list as the Vikings announced Wednesday that Loadholt has been placed on injured reserve that will include surgery on Friday and a four- to five-month rehab process.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow for Loadholt, who had only missed two games in his six-year career – one as a rookie in 2009 and one last year. He hopes to remain a key part of the offense behind the scenes, but the disappointment was obvious in Loadholt’s tone Wednesday.
“Obviously, my season’s over with,” Loadholt said. “It’s unfortunate. I wouldn’t want anything more than to help my team out these last five games, but I’m going to do what I can to stay involved in meetings and help Mike (Harris) and the guys prepare as much as possible and hopefully we can continue to build and win these last five games.”
Loadholt’s injury happened while in pass protection in the third quarter. A Packers defender gave Loadholt an inside move and, when he stuck his arm out to impede his progress, his shoulder got pushed back too far and he felt the pain immediately. He went to the sideline and was pacing back and forth trying to get some range of motion, but it was readily apparent that he was in significant pain and that something was very wrong.
With Fusco suffering an identical injury, he and Loadholt have been discussing the rehab process because Fusco has entered the second stage of his rehabilitation and Loadholt is two months behind Fusco’s timetable. Fusco went down in Week 3 and had surgery shortly thereafter.
“We spoke about that,” Loadholt said. “I talked to the training staff, so I got a pretty good feel of what to expect over the next few months and just looking forward to attacking that the same way I attack playing the game.”
Fusco said that he has been trying to be helpful for Loadholt because this is a new injury for both of them. The only previous surgery Fusco has ever had was getting his tonsils taken out as a child, so it was a new experience for him and ironic that torn pectoral muscles have become the injury du jour this season.
“It’s weird,” Fusco said. “It seems like this is the year of the torn pec. Teams throughout the league have lost players. You know they happen at times, but it seems like there have been a lot more of them this year. I guess Phil and I are going to be doing a lot of the same rehab. I’ll just be a little ahead of him. For me, the hardest part is not being able to lift weights, because I pride myself on being strong and showing that in the weight room. I’m sure Phil is going to have a lot of that same process.”
Asked if that was going to be his biggest hurdle – the inability to use his upper body on the left side for almost two months – Loadholt admitted it will be an issue, but, having had previous surgery on a of a similar type of injury, it won’t be a completely new experience for him.
“Yeah, it is,” Loadholt said of his future inactivity while the surgically repaired pectoral muscle heals. “I’ve been through a shoulder surgery before, which is something kind of similar. I’m using the same doctor, Dr. Nelson, the team doctor, so I expect to fully recover just fine.”
Loadholt expects to make the transformation from player to part-time coach in helping out backups Mike Harris and recently-signed J’Marcus Webb, who will be competing for playing time replacing him. He told the local media not to expect a significant production drop-off with the insertion of either of them because both of them have the capability and experience to play at a high level.
“Mike’s had some experience in this league,” Loadholt said. “He’s started games before. The main thing for him is just making sure he’s preparing himself mentally for the game plan and getting ready for (Carolina defensive end) Charles Johnson, who is a great rusher in this league. So Mike will have his mind right and be ready to go.
“J-Webb, he’s a good player, too,” Loadholt added. “He’s been around the league and was here last year. He’s great in the locker room with us and a good friend of mine. (I have) got all the faith in him if his number’s called, too. It was a good pickup for us. I’m glad he was available and I know he can help us out.”
As Loadholt begins the long, arduous process of recovering and returning to full health before the start of the summer workout programs next year, he doesn’t have the feeling that the Vikings offense has been snake-bit this season, but the mounting number of injuries have truly tested the Vikings depth – a process that only got more difficult with the latest season-ending loss to the offense.
“Injuries, it’s a part of the game,” Loadholt said. “That’s it. You just have to deal with it.”
Injuries are something Norv Turner and the offensive coaches have had to deal with on an ongoing basis all season and there is no sign of it letting up.