Kalil healthier, heavier and happier

Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil is thankful to be feeling better than he has in two years after knee surgery and is happy his weight is finally up, too.

Matt Kalil’s comfort level, and weight, are up, and both of those are good things.

The Minnesota Vikings’ left tackle struggled last year with a knee injury while being roundly criticized as he played through pain that few knew about. The Vikings realized the severity, and they knew surgery was likely this offseason.

Kalil had surgery in January and is feeling better than ever, or least since he was drafted by the Vikings fourth overall in 2012.

“I just wasn’t healthy. I can get into all this other stuff, but I feel good now. Nothing is pretty much going to limit me now, so that’s the biggest thing,” Kalil said.

“I obviously love to play football. I’d like to play for another five to six years, but when you’re hurting like that you’ve got to go to practice every day knowing you are just going to fight through pain and it just kind of takes its toll on you.”

Not only did Kalil not miss a game last year while dealing with pain, he didn’t miss a snap the entire season. He was the only player on the team that can say that.

But it wasn’t easy, as he knew his level of play wasn’t up to his expectations, or others. And now?

“I’ve got a pep in my step. I can go out there and focus on getting better rather than focusing on surviving the practice because I’m just dying out there,” Kalil said. “There’s been no issues, I’m feeling good. I’m the heaviest and strongest I’ve been. I’m about 320 right now, so I feel good.”

Actually, the left tackle who has struggled to keep weight on since he arrived with the Vikings three years ago corrected himself. He’s now 324 and for the first time in years can lose weight instead of trying to gain it.

“I was trying all this diet stuff (to gain weight). I’m just trying to do stuff, just different stuff. I’m just going back to the basics, what got me here in the first place, back to the lifting that I used to do, back to all my strengthening stuff,” he said. “My different diet, not completely unhealthy, but when you weigh 320 you can’t eat chicken, brown rice every day. The calories are up and I’m feeling good.”

Kalil, who is a franchisee in the Pieology Pizzeria chain, said those are also part of his diet.

“I can do healthy pizzas, but I usually don’t do that,” he said with a laugh.

Kalil hasn’t been able to laugh much in the last two years, at least when it came to questions from reporters about his play. After making the Pro Bowl as a rookie, he struggled with injuries the last two years that have led to offseason surgeries.

This year, he scheduled his knee surgery for shortly after his season ended after waiting and hoping that time would heal his injury last year. His decision to wait last year kept him out of offseason practices, and he’s feeling good to get back out on the practice fields this spring.

“I’m ready to get after it. It’s good to say I’m going to come out and have my best year, but this year I think I’m just going to take it step by step, get my feet back underneath me and take it one game at a time,” he said.

He isn’t 100 percent yet, but he’s getting close and once again he’s having fun practicing.

“It’s different, I’m out here kind of doing everything full go,” he said. “The legs are kind of dead and then you get a little stronger and then they get dead again. So it will take a little bit to get that game speed, game strength a little bit. It’s getting better every day rather than getting worse, so that’s always a positive.”

So is his weight. While most people are in a constant battle to lose weight, Kalil has always been the opposite, trying to maintain a weight above 300. He shouldn’t have a problem shedding four pounds to get down to his ideal playing weight between 315 and 320.

“I’m feeling good, definitely stronger, definitely more firm in pass protection,” he said. “Getting bull-rushed and that, I’ve got that foundation under me now.”

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