After two surgeries on his back last fall, center John Sullivan is back at work without limitations, at least in the offseason conditioning part of the program.
Sullivan was at the Minnesota Vikings’ training facility on Tuesday, where he has spent much of his winter and spring getting ready for team workouts that began last week.
Sullivan suffered a herniated disc in his back last training camp, pushed himself to get back by about the midpoint of the regular season and suffered another setback before having a second surgery that ended his 2015 season for good without a single snaps being taken during the season.
These days, he’s optimistic.
“They haven’t put a percentage on it,” Sullivan said Tuesday after another strength and conditioning workout. “I know that we’ve done some imaging. We’ve done imaging since the second surgery. I know the disc itself was scared over.
“It was one injury, just had a recurrence. It was the same hole in the same disc the second time, which will lead to a better outcome than if it were multiple levels. There shouldn’t be a recurrence. If there is, it’s a totally new thing. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the prior injuries.”
Sullivan said he “feels good,” but the days when he couldn’t work out with his teammates all last season were a trying time in his professional life.
“I learned how to deal with some adversity and how to be away from this. It’s very difficult to do, obviously to feel that separated. I’m feeling good now. It was a tricky recovery, especially with the designation to return (from injured reserve) last year and rushing it a little bit trying to come back. I ended up paying for it. Hopefully it’s all behind me now, pun intended.
“It’s just tough. You want to be out there helping your team. I’m a player. I’m a member of the Minnesota Vikings and I’m here to play and I’m here to help and I’m here to win. When you’re sitting on the couch at home watching games on TV you can’t do that.”
There could be one benefit to all the troubled times last season. While his back was undergoing two surgeries, the rest of his body had more time to rest and recovery from the rigors of the NFL.
“I’ve got fresh legs. It was nice for the knee that I had surgery on a couple years ago to rest and this is the best I’ve felt at this time of the year since early in my career,” he said. “Obviously I’m a year older, but it didn’t have that same wear and tear on the body in 2015 on all the other parts beside the injury site. So far, this is going well.”
While he is full-go for the conditioning part of the program, he isn’t completely sure if he will be a full participant when organized team activities (OTAs) – the regular practices – start in May.
“We just haven’t talked about that yet,” he said. “I’m full go here in the offseason program so I anticipate I’ll be going. At the same time, I’ll just do what I’m told in regards to the training staff … and then the coaches. I’m a player. I just do what I’m told.”
Sullivan is now 30 years old, the most tenured Viking on the offensive line. But when he was out last year, Joe Berger, who is three years older, filled in admirably for Sullivan. However, Sullivan expects that if his back holds up he will be the starter once again.
“I’m focused on myself,” he said. “And I don’t want to give you the party answer, but if I come back healthy, my back is fully recovered, I expect to be back in my same role.”