Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon (lower back) and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (shoulder) both returned to practice on Friday, though both saw very limited reps. It was the first time either of them participated in practice since their injuries, though both took some reps during the team’s morning walk-through on Thursday.
McKinnon tweaked his back on Monday during a 7-on-7 drill when he “just got twisted up,” using the same phrasing head coach Mike Zimmer did a few days prior.
“It happens, it’s football,” the third-year running back explained. “Can’t prevent things like that. Things happen and you got to go from there. My main objective right now is to be patient, but keep working and find a way to get back out there 100 percent.”
McKinnon is a player that likes to constantly be moving around during practice and was getting a lot of touches with the first-team offense while Adrian Peterson was out with a hamstring injury. Missing this time has been very difficult for him to handle.
He has been doing his best to stay occupied on the sidelines, trying to envision himself in the plays and taking mental reps. He said it was like playing a video game, but he would much rather be out on the field with his teammates.
“(It’s) a little frustrating, just the fact that you can’t be out there working,” he began. “You got to sit on the sideline and watch, or you’re very limited in certain things you can do. It’s a little frustrating, but I’m trying not to let it get the best of me and still take those mental reps when I’m not physically in there.”
This is not the first time that McKinnon has had to deal with a lower back injury. He suffered one while lifting weights toward the end of his rookie season, an injury that placed him on injured reserve. He said the two injuries are different and he is thankful for that.
“I’m very thankful it’s very different than that,” he said. “But like I said, I’ll take my time. Still early in camp, still preseason, so no need to rush things. Let things heal up and we’ll go from there.”
McKinnon said he has been spending a lot of time with Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, meeting with him about three times a day, just to make sure he can get back as soon as possible. He even works out with Sugarman a little during the team’s practice, and while all the rehab makes for some long days it seems to be worth it, as he said he can definitely see the progress.
The Vikings are having their annual night practice on Saturday and McKinnon is hoping the coaches will let him get a couple reps, but he doesn’t seem too hopeful about it happening.
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“It’d probably be a lot louder environment, so I’m pretty sure guys have their juices flowing,” he said. “Hopefully I get to get a couple reps or something, but we’ll see.”
He also isn’t sure yet if he’ll be able to participate in the Vikings’ joint practices with the Cincinnati Bengals, which start on August 10, or the preseason, simply saying he is going to leave those decisions up to the coaches. But the trend definitely seems to be going in a way that he’ll be ready to go before too long.