John Sullivan isn’t certain he will be ready for action when he’s eligible in the Minnesota Vikings’ ninth game of the season, but he is encouraged with the way his rehab from back surgery is going.
Sullivan – the third Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman on an injured reserve list, joining Phil Loadholt and Carter Bykowski – said once he is recovered and ready, he should be “totally fine going forward,” but he maintains a sense of guilt of not being out there with his linemates, even if he knows it is illogical.
“There’s a measure of guilt. I’ve spoken with my wife, rest of my family and support system, the training staff here,” Sullivan said as he revisited the locker room, a trip he made last week as well. “I understand it’s completely illogical to feel guilty about being injured, especially in this sport. But you just can’t help but feel you’re letting people down. At times that’s tough to deal with. I’m focused on what I can do to get back as fast as possible.”
Sullivan felt the pain in his back cropping up two weeks into training camp but was hopeful it was nothing more than a sore back. Turns out it was a herniated disc. Non-surgical treatment was the advice he received from all the doctors he and the team consulted, hopeful that epidurals and therapy would alleviate the pain. There were moments of hope, like getting on a treadmill, and moments of disappointment, like an adverse reaction to one of the injections.
Finally, after about three weeks of implementing other options, the team and Sullivan relented and he had the surgery.
“By the time we did it, we didn’t have another option, really. Based on certain symptoms I was having, the surgery needed to be done,” he said.
“The hard part is in hindsight you wish, ‘Oh, well, we could have done this three weeks earlier.’ But if the therapeutic injections had worked I would have been able to play Week 1 … we’re on track to return this season and I’m so happy I have something to look forward to.”
The Vikings placed Sullivan on injured reserve/designated to return, meaning he won’t be able to return to practice for the first six weeks of the season and won’t be eligible to play for the first eight.
“I’m not sure exactly when I’ll start lifting weights again, but it’ll be here in the next two weeks and I’ll have more than enough time to make sure that I’m back to an adequate strength level to go out there and perform,” he said.
He said he wasn’t even sure when he had the surgery that he would be able to play again this season, but as the clouds of surgery cleared his playing future became brighter, too.
Prior to the surgery, he wasn’t even able help around the house much with two babies in the house.
“I was pretty useless there for a while,” said Sullivan, whose second child was born during training camp. “So (his wife Adrian) did a really good job.”
Now he’s doing a lot of walking and “tabletop” exercises and said he is progressing more quickly than many others that have had the surgery, saying the pain relief from the surgery was immediate.
His immersion back into the lineup, however, will have to wait at least six more weeks.