An injury that started to take root in Zach Line’s hip in the second half of the 2016 season is complicating his 2017 offseason.
The fullback showed up at Minnesota Vikings Winterfest this weekend using crutches after opting to have hip surgery about four weeks ago.
“Right now is more a mental toughness deal because you want to be off [the crutches] and I can walk fine, but my wife – we’re due any day now for another kid – and she’s like, ‘You’ve got to stay on those crutches because I’m not prolonging this any longer than it needs to be. She’s been carrying the load. Five [weeks] and they said basically after that you can hit the ground running.”
Line should be shedding his crutches before the start of free agency in March, but he decided he should have surgery to help ensure he is healthy when offseason practices start.
“It wasn’t painful or anything, it was just a little nagging where I could feel it in the hip, a little tight muscle and all they said is if you want to do this you can, if not – kind of one of those deals,” Line said. “Me and my agent just decided to go ahead and have it cleaned up. Might as well in the offseason. You’ve got time.”
The complicating factor for him is that he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. His future in Minnesota is up in the air and he is coming off a season in which the Vikings running game ranked last in the NFL.
“Individually, I think that just with the way the hip bugged me throughout the year, I knew that I wanted to come into this year healthy and ready to roll because if you have anything bugging you in this league it’s exploited by a thousand on game day. Maybe it doesn’t show up, but you know it does – you know you can do more,” he said. “I think I had a good year as far as blocking and all that stuff. I’m definitely going to go into this offseason with a mindset of working on strength, speed, obviously the blocking, but also having that ability to be versatile at all times.”
Whether he is with the Vikings in 2017 or another team, increased versatility would be a plus.
Line played in only about one-fifth of the offensive snaps. Some of that may have had to do with his injury. Other times it was more about the week-to-week changes in the game plan.
Either way, the second half of the season became more of a grind, because of the team going 3-8 in their final 11 games and because he was trying to play through the painful hip injury.
“It’s tough. I think everybody is doing it. That’s the best part of it. You think you’re the only one. They don’t show it. You put a smile on and it kind of takes care of it,” he said. “June Jones always told us you can play hurt but not injured. … It’s definitely a mindset. The hardest part is practicing with an injury like that if you’re in pain because you don’t have the adrenaline. Once you get to game day you’re not even hurting and then a couple hours after that, you’re like, yeah, there it is. I never really feel it on game day.”