Notebook: Sully's experience should help

Center John Sullivan picked up his first 16 regular-season starts and added two more in the playoffs. That learning curve should help the offensive line and offense as a whole in 2010. Brad Childress, Steve Hutchinson and Sullivan all talked about the maturation of the young center.

In the first of 13 pages of biographical information on Brett Favre is the record-breaking stat that he has started 285 straight games. Snapping the ball to him last year was first-time starter John Sullivan.

Sullivan, according to his one-page biography, started and ended the season still 269 starts behind Favre. But at least Sullivan gained valuable experience during his first pro season in the NFL trenches last year.

"There's no substitute for experience. Having gone through everything once makes you that much better. And the fact (is) that now he's got a year under his belt," said perennial Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson, who set up shop on the left side of Sullivan. "He's gone through a whole offseason preparing to be a starter. He played the year and now he's going through it again, knows what he needs to work on. When you're going into your first year starting, you don't know what specifically to work on. You're just trying to get everything right. Now he can go back. He's done it. He's watched game film from last year. He knows what he needs to work on. That just gives you an advantage. In some areas you're pretty satisfied with your game. In other areas you've got things to work on. That goes for everybody. If you can concentrate on just those things that you need to get better, that helps you out a lot."

The low-key Sullivan said things aren't much different during this year's training camp.

"I came in last year with a certain level of expectations. I know I need to improve all the time. That's never going to change. I think I'm a better player at this time this year than I was at this time last year," he said. "The experience is huge, but you've still got to go out there and execute. You can't rest on what you've done in the past. You have to continue to get better all the time."

Sullivan and Hutchinson both said the experience is equally helpful physically and mentally. Sullivan says he is stronger physically and mentally quicker with his calls for the offensive line.

"I still put in the time to study, but the recall is there," he said. "I'm relearning things for another time and it makes it that much easier."

Vikings coach Brad Childress expressed a lot of confidence in handing the offensive line calls to Sullivan last year after Pro Bowler Matt Birk left for Baltimore via free agency. So far, so good, according to Childress.

"He really helped himself X's-and-O's wise going through a year and being able to direct the show," Childress said. "He's a very smart guy. He got stronger throughout the offseason. Probably just both run block and pass block. He's more comfortable and the guys are more comfortable with him."

Sullivan said he made the most improvement by lowering his leverage last year, which resulted in improved blocking.

"He's going to naturally continue to get stronger, and as he gets up to 30, he's getting strong in the weight room," Hutchinson said. "… Both mentally and physically, you're going to get tougher."

With a year under Sullivan's belt, that experience could really help an offense that was already one of the league's best last year and expecting to return every one of its starters in 2010.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON PRACTICE NOTES

  • Not practicing Thursday afternoon: QB Brett Favre (did not report), WR Percy Harvin (death in the family), WR Sidney Rice (hip, PUP), CB Benny Sapp (heat-related), CB Cedric Griffin (knee, PUP), WR Darius Reynaud (leg), RB Adrian Peterson (leg) and LB J Leman (leg).

  • Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson continue to share first-team reps throughout practices.

  • Jasper Brinkley got the majority of the first-team reps in the afternoon while E.J. Henderson worked on a side field. Henderson continues to practice during the first practice and take the second one off during a two-a-days.

  • The Vikings' afternoon practice was spent going over scripted plays by down and distance with little resistance from the defense in a three-quarters speed workout. Tarvaris Jackson completed all eight of his passes in the first 10-play session. Most of the passes were shot, but Jackson hit Jaymar Johnson on a 60-yard bomb with Chris Cook in coverage.

  • Sage Rosenfels faired nearly as well in his first session, with only one incompletion. However, while Jackson continued to look sharp in the second session, Rosenfels threw into double coverage attempting to hit Taye Biddle. Chad Greenway was right there, and after Biddle deflected the pass, Greenway ended up pinning the ball against Antoine Winfield's chest as the cornerback grabbed it and returned it for a would-be touchdown. A couple plays later, Rosenfels nearly threw another interception. This time it was Erin Henderson in coverage knocking a pass away from Mickey Shuler.

  • Ray Small and Taye Biddle got reps on punt returns.

  • Adrian Peterson signed autographs during a formal group session after the first practice and stayed extra to make sure everyone selected in a lottery drawing got their autograph, and then he signed some more outside the locker room following the afternoon practice, sending girls screaming for joy and boys high-fiving.

  • Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is friends with the members of Diamond Rio. They were in attendance during the afternoon practice as a prelude to signing at Mankato's Ribfest Thursday evening.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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