McCauley Returns to Field

The hearts of Vikings coaches skipped a beat when Marcus McCauley injured his knee in a shared practice with the Kansas City Chiefs. At the time, it was unknown how severe the injury was and how long he would be out. Those questions were answered Sunday as McCauley returned to practice.

One of the hot training camp battles for the Vikings this year has been among the backup cornerbacks fighting it out for the nickel back position. Newcomer Benny Sapp and Charles Gordon have been raising eyebrows with impressive camps and have pushed for more playing opportunities.

But on Sunday, the man who originally was supposed to have job – Marcus McCauley – returned to practice. McCauley, who has been out since the Vikings' shared practice with the Kansas City Chiefs more than a week ago, said he never thought the knee injury suffered during the scrimmage was going to be too serious, because he didn't have the standard reactions that typically are associated with a ligament injury.

"They asked what my symptoms were and I told them I didn't feel anything pop," McCauley said. "I thought at the time that I had jammed it and that is what it turned out being."

Although his knee injury was the first such injury of his career, McCauley said that he has been overseeing his own rehab at his own pace. He said he knows when he can push himself and when he has to shut down and that, after missing the preseason opener, he was rearing to get back on the field.

"I know my body pretty well," McCauley said. "I've never had knee injuries before, but the pain of the moment didn't feel like the pop you have when you tear something. It's been a little stiff, but it's been getting better every day and I've been itching to get back on the field."

However, that wasn't supposed to happen Sunday. He wasn't expected to fully participate in practice. He convinced the coaches that he was ready and was able to do a little more than just work out on the side.

"Originally, I was just going to do individual drills," McCauley said. "But after I warmed up, I felt better and said I wanted to take some reps. As long as I was warmed up, I figured I might as well go out there and give Antoine (Winfield) and (Charles) Gordon a bit of a break."

Head coach Brad Childress wouldn't speculate when McCauley will resume full-time practice, but said he doesn't put players who can't protect themselves on the field, whether in games or in practice. He knew McCauley was close to returning, but that he got the medical clearance to do a little more than initially anticipated.

"It was the next step in his rehab," Childress said. "He ended up taking some team snaps and made a nice play on the sidelines. He's pushed himself. He's braced up and pain-free and he's ready to get back to work."

The worst part of it for McCauley was that he hasn't been in the competition for the nickel back spot he took over last season as a rookie. Sitting and watching has been difficult because he's been watching as Gordon and Sapp have been two of the most talked-about players in training camp.

"It's been really frustrating," McCauley said. "I felt like I was starting to turn that corner. Mentally, I stayed in it with the meetings, but it was frustrating because I felt I worked myself into good shape."

McCauley said he felt good after practice and doesn't anticipate a setback Monday, when knee injuries typically swell and cause problems the day after returning to action. McCauley said that his plan is to fully return to game action by the time the Vikings meet the Ravens Saturday. For that to happen, he needs to get back on the practice field – a goal he accomplished Sunday.

"My goal is to play on Saturday, so I have to be back in practice for that to happen," McCauley said. "It felt pretty good and I look forward to be able to do more as the week moves along."

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