While most of the players that comprise the Minnesota Vikings enjoyed five days away from their Winter Park training complex during the team's bye, those on rehabilitation duty were supposed to be left behind.
The first Viking to be placed on season-ending injured reserve once training camp started was safety Tank Williams, who entered camp as a starter with a competitive battle with Dwight Smith expected.
Instead, a fractured kneecap early in training camp ended Williams' season.
"I feel terrible for Tank for a few reasons," Vikings coach Brad Childress said at the time. "No. 1, 30 years of doing this, injuries are the toughest thing, and season-ending injuries to a guy that has worked awfully hard to put himself in a position is particularly disappointing. In addition, my family and my guys – he is one of the guys, he's one of the guys that flew in here as a free agent, one of those 10 guys that I sat down and looked in the eye and talked with.
"When I saw him in the shower room (following the injury), it was kind of an emotional thing, and you know what? I know there is a plan. I don't know what it is, but he knows that there is a plan too, but he's going to suck it up and take it, and rehab."
Williams echoed Childress' post-injury thoughts a couple weeks ago sitting by his locker.
"The man upstairs has a plan. I just try to follow it to the fullest and let things occur how they will. I really have no control over it," Williams said. "All I control right now is how I rehab and the attitude I take towards it. I'm going to take a positive attitude, and I'm pretty sure it will help me get back faster than if I was around sulking."
Williams had been in and out of town doing rehab and attending checkups with the doctors to monitor the progress in the first six weeks following his injury. He's off of crutches and out of his brace and has been working on strength exercises, like leg presses and curls, and honing his sense of balance.
"The better it feels, the more you do until you get all your strength back. I've been pretty blessed and things are going well so far, so I'll just keep working until I get back to 100 percent," Williams said.
Throughout a conversation, Williams continues to flash his smile, even when that conversation centers around another season-ending injury.
He suffered a torn ACL during the 2004 season, but spent all of the ensuing off-season working hard to return to the starting lineup for the first game of 2005 with the Tennessee Titans. While he said that most of that season was spent still working through his rehabilitation, he was excited to be feel back to 100 percent early in 2006 and concentrating on football throughout the Vikings' minicamps.
He said he will "easily" be 100 percent for mincamps again in 2007, and his time spent keeping in tune with the defense should help when he does return to the practice field sometime after this season.
"I was doing great – comfortable in the defense, comfortable in the system, comfortable in how my teammates were playing. I was feeling really good about it," Williams said. "As you can see, the defense has been playing well, so it was going to be a great thing to be a part of. Now I just have to work hard to make sure I'm a part of it next year."
For now, however, he can only be a part of the regular routine mentally; physically he is still recovering. He continues to receive a tape of the next opponent and is able to talk with coaches if he has a question about how the team is approaching a game plan or concepts being installed.
But this past week, there was no next opponent for his healthy teammates, just some time away from football. As for Williams and his three other teammates on injured reserve – cornerback Dovonte Edwards, defensive end Erasmus James and linebacker Chad Greenway – they try to stick together for encouragement, according to Williams.
"Whatever it is – legs, shoulders or whatever it is – guys just try to stick together and push each other along, because when you have to miss the whole season everybody is going through the same things. Everybody wants to be out there playing," he said. "We try to encourage each person along and make sure they are keeping their spirits up."
Tank's Rehab Continues to Roll Along
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