Herrera gaining strength, confidence

Vikings guard Anthony Herrera tried to hide the effects of a shoulder surgery over the last two years, but he says he's finally getting back to full strength. He talked about the limitations that injury had on his game over the past two seasons and the toughness throughout his offensive line.

Anthony Herrera has spent the past two seasons guarding quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Brett Favre, and guarding information about a shoulder injury that caused him to have surgery before the 2009 season and left him unable to lift weights each of the last two years.

And now that the shoulder if finally and fully healed …

"It's like day and night. At this point last year I wasn't even practicing. I was rehabbing. I had a good offseason, had a chance to finally start benching, my first time in two years, really benching heavy," Herrera said. "The shoulder's healthy, my head's great, my body's feeling great. I'm working, trying to get a Pro Bowl year."

That would be quite an accomplishment considering Herrera was considered one of the weak links in the offensive line the last year or two. Now, however, after hearing of how debilitating his injury really was, there is reason to believe he can rebound.

Without full use of his shoulder, he wasn't useless, but he certainly wasn't as effective as he could have been.

"When you're playing offensive line, you have to be strong – your upper body, your lower body, you've got to be able to stop guys (that) come barreling into you and I wasn't really able to do that last year or the year before," he said. "I'm really looking forward it. I'm strong now. I've been working hard with (strength and conditioning coach Tom) Kanavy in there in the weight room and just working on my techniques with coach and them and getting my pass game better. (I'm) ready to go."

Herrera was more than willing to play though the injury last year, even though it prevented him from lifting weights. Naturally, the inability to lift affected his game.

"In the offseason, all you do is just light weights just to get the mobility going in there and your range. But now I'm actually bench-pressing the way that you're supposed to," he said. "So the strength is really coming back and I'm looking forward to good things."

Now that the shoulder is fully functional, he said it's just a matter of getting his confidence back that it can handle the pounding of an NFL season.

"When a guy is pushing on your outside and you can't push back on him, it gets to the point where you've got to do what you've got to do to win," he said.

He did what he could last year and has never been one to complain about pain – most of the time, he denies he is struggling through an injury even when the pain and limitations are obvious.

Herrera was certainly willing to play through the pain and played in all but two games, but he played the fewest offensive snaps – 85 percent of them – of all the starting offensive linemen.

While the offensive line accepted the punches thrown by their critics last year, it's clear that the linemen were never even close to 100 percent. Herrera's shoulder was only part of the problem.

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie was dealing with ankle and foot injuries. Left guard Steve Hutchinson had offseason surgery to repair a shoulder that bothered him much of the season. John Sullivan played through an ankle injury. And right tackle Phil Loadholt missed one game and dealt with shoulder and ankle injuries during his rookie season.

"A couple of those guys had procedures last year and obviously you had a new center and a new right tackle. I'm glad you asked that question because it gets bandied about," head coach Brad Childress said when asked if observers were able to see the potential of the offensive line. "It depends on who you read – somebody will say it's one of the better lines in the NFL. Whether it's just in the horizon that I look at locally, you might talk about (the offensive linemen) in a bad way, use their name in vein.

"I would point out that it was the second scoring offense (in the NFL). ‘Yeah, but you didn't run the ball as well.' No, but we threw it better. You have to give something to get something. You can't have it all ways. Rarely do you see the top rushing team be the top passing team or vice versa. Really all we care about is finding a way to get into the end zone and bottom line – win the game. It will be good to have those guys all together again and healthy."

Herrera said it was a testament to the toughness of his linemates that they were able to persevere through a variety of limiting injuries.

"That's the type of team we have. You have to be able to fight through injuries. We're not going to go out there and tell people what's going on because that's not how we do it here with the Vikings," he said. "The offensive line, we're not any prima donnas. We go out and battle. We get paid to do a job and we're going to go out and do it to the best of your ability."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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