As the Minnesota Vikings prepare in earnest for the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night, injuries are on the line. The offensive line and the defensive line.
Rotational nose tackle Shamar Stephen returned to practice on a limited basis Tuesday after arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-August ended his preseason prematurely. Stephen played in the Hall of Fame game, but hasn’t played in the last four preseason games.
He said his knee is “feeling pretty good,” but he admitted that he naturally wondered if the setback would be longer-lasting than it is proving to be at this point.
“I feel like that crosses a lot of people’s minds when they first get injured. With the docs and stuff, they reassured me I’ll be alright,” he said after Tuesday’s practice.
Stephen, who played in 37 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie last year, said he is just “working my way back” and trying to get back into the routine of practices.
“It’s nothing really difficult. It’s just getting the reps in and mentally preparing myself and being able to physically prepare myself as I work myself in,” he said.
The great concern lies on the offensive line, where center John Sullivan remained out of practice on Tuesday after head coach Mike Zimmer said on Monday that Sullivan might do some work the following day. Zimmer said he isn’t really concerned about Sullivan’s injury – back spasms – but after a day off on Wednesday, the more telling days will be Thursday and Friday, the heaviest days of the weekly NFL workload for a Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers.
RELATED VIDEO: NORV TURNER TALKS WEEK 1 OFFENSE
The Vikings can ill afford anymore injuries on their offensive line. They already lost starting right tackle Phil Loadholt for the season with a torn Achilles in the second preseason game and lost backup offensive tackle Carter Bykowski to a pectoral injury.
Fullback Zach Line has also missed both practices this week with wrap or sleeve on his left knee, but the Vikings didn’t use a fullback very often last year, so that’s not as big an issue as the injuries on the offensive line and, to lesser extent, Stephen on the defensive line.