Pruitt pushing to return, improve blocking

Tight end MyCole Pruitt hopes to return to practice soon, where his focus will be partially on improving his blocking.

MyCole Pruitt was a fifth-round draft pick for the Minnesota Vikings and was expected to have a fairly big role with the offense during his rookie campaign. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner was bullish on him coming out of college because Pruitt had a good mixture of size and speed, could block both on the line or in the backfield and could catch the ball anywhere on the field.

He had already been taking some reps with the first-team offense this offseason, but an ankle injury suffered during the team’s second preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has set him back. The rookie has been forced to sit out of the team’s practices and third preseason game but he just views it all as something he needs to overcome.

“It’s a setback, but there is always going to be some type of obstacle,” Pruitt said. “I just look at it as one more thing I’ve got to get by and come back strong and be able to produce for this team.”

It is always difficult for players to continue with their development while they are unable to practice because out on the field is where they learn the most. While off the field, Pruitt has been focused on burying his head in his playbook and learning as much as he can so he isn’t behind when he is finally able to come back.

He is also standing on the sideline while his teammates are practicing and running drills trying to take mental reps while also relying on the help of the tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski.

“When I’m out here I’m basically connected to Coach Stefanski’s hip,” he said, “and just trying to soak in everything I can.”

It’s always good for players to take mental reps, but eventually they have to be able to be out on the field to work on the physical aspects of the game. For Pruitt, the biggest one is blocking.

Blocking is expected to be a big part of how the Vikings use Pruitt, and on Monday head coach Mike Zimmer said that Pruitt is not quite where he wants him to be in that regard.

“He’s got the body to be a blocker,” Zimmer said. “He’s willing. I think he’s going to continue to get better. Right now I wouldn’t say he’s a killer blocker, but I think he’ll be better than adequate when it’s all said and done.”

Blocking isn’t something he will really be able to improve while standing on the sideline taking mental reps. The young tight end knows this and hopes he is going to be able to get in for some more game reps so he can work on it at full speed.

“I felt (blocking)’s been going well,” Pruitt said. “Obviously I want to get into a couple more games and get a little more game experience, but, like I said, it’s a setback and I’ve just got to do everything I can to overcome this.”

Right now there is no timetable fore Pruitt’s return to the practice field but on Monday Zimmer did say “he’s getting close.”

Ultimately the decision comes down to when the team’s head athletic trainer, Eric Sugarman, feels Pruitt is ready. Pruitt was doing a lot of work with Sugarman on Wednesday during practice, shuffling in different directions, getting down in a three-point stance and running different routes. Sugarman wants to make sure that the tight end’s ankle can handle different forms of weight transfers and cuts before giving the OK.

It is not likely that Pruitt will be back in time for the team’s game against the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday, but it sounds like there is a strong possibility he is back practicing with the team next week.

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