John Sullivan admitted it’s a lonely place for a longtime NFL starter to be stuck in rehab throughout a season.
“This is the most I’ve felt that in my career. No doubt about that,” Sullivan said Monday in the Minnesota Vikings locker room.
“It’s part of the game, though. I’m not a victim in this whole thing. I got injured and pushed it trying to come back and got hurt again. It definitely sucks being away from the guys and not out on the field.”
The Minnesota Vikings’ longtime starting center underwent lumbar microdiscectomy surgery prior to the regular season and was placed on injured reserve/designated to return. About five weeks into rehab, he suffered a setback while lifting weights and had to have surgery once again.
Now he is at about the same point he was in his first rehab when he re-injured the back.
“We’re going a little bit slower this time, more conservative,” Sullivan said, admitting he might have pushed himself to come back too quickly the first time around.
“In hindsight, yeah, I think that is the case, but I think we were doing what we had to do to try to play this season. But I won’t say that anything is off the table. I think that’s up to the training and coaching staff.”
Sullivan said he definitely plans to play again, but it doesn’t sound like that time be this season anymore and that’s why he and the team are taking the “conservative” approach to his second rehab.
In the meantime, all he can do on game days is watch his teammates play on TV. It’s not an easy approach for him … or his family.
“I don’t think anybody in my family likes watching with me, but it is what it is – when you’re not out there it sucks,” he said.
“I’m rewinding the TV copy like it’s the All-22 film, trying to see what’s happening on every play. There’s not a whole lot of flow when watching the TV copy at my house right now. Yeah, it’s frustrating.”
He declined to offer any analysis on the play of the Vikings’ offensive line after Teddy Bridgewater took six sacks against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
And he is intentionally staying away from meetings, saying “non-essential players” – those who aren’t practicing – can be more of a distraction than a help.
“The tough part about the situation I’m in now, when you’re not playing, if you’re in the room you kind of change the dynamic of things. When you’re a non-essential personnel … you’re more in the way than you’re going to help,” he said. “We have great coaches, we’ve got the right guys in the room. They’re the ones handling it on the field right now. That’s not to say I don’t still talk to (Joe Berger) or talk to Teddy (Brigewater), but I’m not as involved as a player should be if they’re going to be there all the time.”
For now, Sullivan is in grin-and-bear-it mode, and when that ends is anybody’s guess, but he is confident he will emerge from the training room and weight room and return to the football field at some point.
“It’s a tough situation,” he said. “I hate being away, but I’ll be back.”