The first half of John Sullivan’s season is over before it started.
The Minnesota Vikings’ starting center underwent lumbar microdiscectomy surgery on Wednesday and was placed on injured reserve/designated to return on Thursday.
Being placed on that list means Sullivan won’t be allowed to practice until after six weeks of the season and won’t be able to return until after at least eight games. The Vikings have until the day after their Week 11 game to make a roster decision on him.
Sullivan has missed the last three weeks of practices and games and head coach Mike Zimmer, who said he wasn’t too concerned with the injury, originally termed Sullivan’s absence as “spasms.” The surgery removes a small portion of bone to relieve pain and is typically performed on patients with herniated discs, which Zimmer confirmed was the injury for Sullivan.
“He was doing better. He was running. Typically you treat these conservatively because if you don’t then it could end up having surgery and you want to take your time and see if it heals,” Zimmer said. “And he got to a point where he was getting better but he couldn’t get over the hump. He was running 7 miles an hour on the treadmill in there, but we just couldn’t get him over the hump.
“… He had two epidurals. We knew what it was. Typically, a lot of guys will recover after one epidural. Sometimes they’ll recover after two epidurals. After his second epidural, he was doing better and we were hopeful that he would get over the hump and he just never did.”
Sullivan hasn’t missed a game since the 2011 season.
“As a player you never want to miss time. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your absence, you feel guilty about not fulfilling your responsibility to your teammates, coaches, organization and fans by giving it your absolute best out on the field every Sunday,” Sullivan said in a statement. “While I’m incredibly disappointed that I’ll be missing the first portion of the 2015 season, I have full faith in the roster that our coaches and front office have put together. Joe Berger will step in and do a great job leading our offensive line, protecting the best young quarterback in football and opening up holes in the running game. In the meantime, I promise I’ll be doing everything I can to recover and I’ll be ready as soon as humanly possible to return to the field and help the Vikings win their first Super Bowl Championship. Skol!”
Sullivan won’t count on the Vikings’ 53-man roster until they make a decision on his status sometime between Weeks 8 and 11. That opens a roster spot for the team to sign another player, and Zimmer said they were considering their option there, with one option being to wait until cornerback Jabari Price returns after Week 2 from his suspension.
In his absence, veteran Joe Berger has been filling in, but that further depletes the depth of the offensive line with first-year player Zac Kerin, who was on the practice squad last year, and rookie Austin Shepherd as the interior backups. The Vikings also traded for guard/tackle Jeremiah Sirles earlier on Saturday.
Zimmer said he has “no concern at all” with the performance of the offensive line, which is also without starting right tackle Phil Loadholt, who tore his Achilles tendon in Week 2 of the preseason.