John Sullivan is getting restless after spending another practice on the sidelines. He knows how important cohesiveness is for the line, and his injury, along with a new one to Anthony Herrera, is testing that. Plus, get more than a dozen practice notes, including the tale of Ben the EMT.
There are many things that go into making a championship team and they differ from one team to the next. Some teams are offensively dominant. Others are led by defense. But one thing almost every champion has in common is that the offensive line spends the entire season intact as a group.
Almost to a team, consistency on the offensive line is critical to a team's success. The Vikings haven't had their O-line playing together for almost the entirety of camp, with center John Sullivan
sidelined with a calf iujury. He's missed much of the last week and said he's getting the itch to get back on the field with his teammates.
"We need time out there on the practice field," Sullivan said. "That's what training camp is for. The coaches are trying to do what's best for all of us and two-a-days are just part of that process."
Sullivan said that he was looking forward to this year's camp, his second as a starter. After starting last season with two new faces on the line – Sullivan and rookie Phil Loadholt
– he said this year was going to be different.
"Last year, there was a lot of getting used to the guys around you and them getting used to you," Sullivan said. "It's been frustrating because you want to be out there with your teammates, but you can't. It isn't as urgent now as it might be during the season, but it's still frustrating. But, I understand the medical people saying they don't want any setbacks and, if you're going to stand and watch practice, it's better to come before your first game that during the regular season,"
Sullivan's calf is still red and clearly visible from across the practice field. He hasn't been given a timeline for his return, but said the team is erring on the side of caution.
"I'd love to be out there with the rest of the guys mixing it up, but they know what they're doing," Sullivan said. "I want the same thing – to be 100 percent and ready to go when it matters. I'm still pushing to get back on the field and I expect you'll see me back out there pretty soon."
SATURDAY A.M. PRACTICE NOTES
Rain interrupted practice for the first time this training camp, as a line of heavy showers rolled through Mankato early in the morning. But, after the rain subsided and the sun came out, it got steamy on the field. Practice was supposed to run from 9 to 11 a.m., but, due to the rain, didn't get underway until 10:30 a.m. and ran until about 12:45 – one of the longest practices of camp.
Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, begins Thursday – the last day of training camp – and lasts for the next month. Practicing Muslims fast during daylight hours for the entire month. Safety Husain Abdullah is a practicing Muslim and has observed Ramadan since the age of 11. Vikings coach Brad Childress said the team is working with Abdullah, whose eating schedule consists of eating after 9 p.m. or before 7 a.m.
Guard Anthony Herrera left the field late in practice with what appeared to be a leg injury. He limped badly to sidelines. Childress said he didn't have an update and believed the injury to be "back spasms."
With Herrera out of action, rookie Chris DeGeare moved to right guard. He has spelled veteran Steve Hutchinson at left guard during drills earlier in camp.
Those missing practice Saturday included Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Cedric Griffin, Sullivan, Darius Reynaud, Naufahu Tahi and J Leman.
For Tahi, it was his first full day of practice he had missed. He left Friday morning's practice with a calf strain.
Benny Sapp returned to the practice field after missing nearly a week of practice with heat-related complications.
In one of the stranger stories of camp, an Emergency Medical Technician who will be called Ben the EMT – he didn't want to give his name, but it said "Ben" on his identification badge – took one of the heaviest shots of camp during field goal drills. Rhys Lloyd was attempting a 30-yard chip shot and bombed a kick that went through the goal posts, over the medical trailer beyond the end of the field and onto the walkway between the locker room and the practice field. As dozens looked on, the ball came down and hit him flush in the face – harkening some to remember the "Brady Bunch" episode when Marcia takes a football to the face and becomes temporarily disfigured. At first, it appeared as if the point of the ball hit Ben the EMT directly in his right eye, but it hit an inch or so above the eye. He was tended to by team medicos and, after practice, his face was a little swollen, but there was no other damage. When told he has to keep his on swivel even if he isn't practice, Ben the EMT joked, "Now you tell me."
Lloyd got off to a rough start in kickoff drills to start practice. His first kickoff went out of bounds by about 15 yards.
The Vikings practiced in full pads for just the second time during training camp.
Saturday marked the fifth straight day of two-a-day practices.
Logan Payne got the crowd on its feet during passing drills when he caught a pass one handed over the top of his head in the corner of the end zone.
E.J. Henderson made his presence felt during the contact portion of practice, delivering a couple of big pops – one to Albert Young and another to Toby Gerhart.
Gerhart, who replaced Adrian Peterson on the first-team offense during 11-on-11 contact drills, continues to take big shots from the Vikings' defensive players, a few of whom have said he has a reputation for toughness that they have wanted to check out for themselves.
Defensive players stick together regardless. Gerhart took a sweep to the sideline and defensive players are instructed to take a smack at the ball to make sure the runner holds on to it. Gerhart went through the gauntlet and thought he was done until Griffin, who was standing on the sidelines in shorts and no pads, tried to smack the ball loose. Gerhart seemed surprised, but, to his credit, didn't cough up the ball.
Rookie Everson Griffen struggled on one-on-one drills, jumping offside on his first attempt and, after getting a Mulligan, slipped and fell coming off the ball on the next snap.
Jay Glazer and Curt Menefee of FOX Sports were both in attendance at Saturday morning's practice.
The team is scheduled for a practice from 5 to 7 p.m. tonight before getting an off day Sunday.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.