To date, there have been no real signs of 2013 first-round pick Sharrif Floyd coming back anytime soon from knee surgery that damaged a nerve in his leg.
The former starter next to Linval Joseph hasn’t practiced at all this offseason and remained an observer this week as the Minnesota Vikings wrapped up the final week of their organized team activities and prepare for mandatory minicamp next week.
Last week, Floyd said he was “progressing,” but he termed the long road to this point as “hell.”
“It’s been hell. It’s hot down there, so you can only imagine,” Floyd said. “But I’m just fighting to stay positive and stick in there with my team. That’s the bright side of things right now.”
But until Floyd starts doing anything of relevance, the Vikings are forced to move on and look for his replacement. The primary candidate, Tom Johnson, was the man that replaced Floyd for the final 15 weeks of the season after Floyd played in only the regular-season opener and was out for the remainder of the 2016 season.
“I think it’s early,” defensive line coach Andre Patterson said when asked about the battle to replace Floyd. “I think [general manager Rick Spielman] has done a tremendous job of bringing in talent to compete and to see who is going to continue to improve and get better and master what we’re teaching.”
Tom Johnson has been getting the bulk of the first-team reps in OTAs while the newcomers learn the system. Jaleel Johnson has the ability to play either the three-technique defensive tackle position that Floyd handled previously or nose tackle, where Joseph is entrenched as the starter.
“He’s going to play both, which he did in college, too,” Patterson said of Jaleel Johnson. “He’s big enough to hold in there at nose tackle and he’s got enough quickness to play three-technique, too,” Patterson said. “So right now I’m giving him reps at both spots.”
Sutton and Jones both have some re-acclimating to do at the position.
Jones, a former first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, had been moved all around the defensive front in Green Bay, from end to tackle to linebacker. Sutton, who was released by the Chicago Bears this offseason, was another player the Vikings had interest in when he entered the draft. But Chicago has been transitioning their defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 since John Fox took over as head coach.
Both of them will fight for a roster spot at perhaps the most unsettled position on the defensive line.
“Datone is improving fast and quickly. Will Sutton is doing the exact same thing, and then you’ve got Jaleel, who is also competing there, too,” Patterson said. “The best thing for me is that Rick went out and got guys that fit the skill set that you want to play at that position. Now it’s just a matter of them working hard to master the technique that we teach and then through the preseason let it fight itself out. As a coach, you can never ask for anything more than that. So I feel real good about how we fit at that position.”
Meanwhile, Floyd is left to watch the others on the practice field and hope that he can return to “the game that I love so dearly” at some point.
“Looking forward to getting better. I’m not really focused on none of the negativity about it. Just doing what I can and trying to support my team,” Floyd said last week.
“…Everything’s going to happen whenever it happens and hopefully everything happens in a good way.”