Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt, who is working his way back from a torn Achilles' tendon, is optimistic he will be ready to participate in offseason workouts this spring. Whether he will be participating in them at Winter Park or at another team's practice facility is something Loadholt says he can't worry about.
Loadholt suffered the season-ending injury last August in a preseason game. It was the second consecutive season he wound up on injured reserve. A torn pectoral ended his season early in 2014.
With Loadholt out of the mix on game day but still a fixture at the team's practice facility, the Vikings went 11-5 and won the NFC North.
"It was great to see them have such a great year," Loadholt said. "Obviously, I wish they were still playing. But it was great to see the guys do good for sure. It's hard watching the games anyway when you're not playing in them. But it made it a little better, the fact that they were winning."
Loadholt, 30, said he is "on track" in his recovery from the torn left Achilles' tendon. He started running last week, which was a significant milestone in the long recovery process.
"I'm moving around and stuff like that and getting back in shape," Loadholt said. "So I feel like my season is starting now, which is good because I'm not still rehabbing and barely walking and stuff like that."
Loadholt was asked if he will be ready to participate in the team's offseason training program, which kicks off in the middle of April.
"I think I'm going to be able to participate for sure," he said. "I feel good."
Loadholt was one of several speakers at a Black History Month event the Vikings put on Monday for area high school and middle school students. The speakers included Hall of Fame defensive linemen Alan Page and Carl Eller, who talked about the racial friction they and others faced decades ago.
"The locker room dynamic is so different from [the 1960s and 1970s], and it's partly because of the sacrifices those guys had to go through," Loadholt said. "So it's unbelievable to hear some of the stories. … It's really good to be a part of something like that where you can hear those stories."
Loadholt, when healthy, was a valuable member of the Vikings and a leader in the locker room. But his age, his recent injury history and his $7.75 million salary cap figure for the 2016 season could mean the team will decide to move on from Loadholt before the final year of his contract.
The Vikings could create $6 million in cap space by releasing Loadholt before June 1. Rookie offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings started every game in Loadholt's place in 2015, though his performance was uneven.
Loadholt said he is trying to not dwell on his uncertain contract status.
"Not at all. I can't control any of that. All I can do is get healthy," Loadholt said. "And once I get healthy, I'll be ready to play ball. I can guarantee that much. The other stuff I have no control over, so I can't worry about it."