Mistral Raymond has come a long way in a short amount of time.
On Sept. 23, the Vikings second-year safety looked as if he had suffered a huge setback when his right ankle buckled as he attempted to tackle San Francisco's Frank Gore. Raymond dislocated his ankle on the play and has missed the Vikings' past five games. But now, he appears ready to return Sunday afternoon in Seattle.
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said Thursday he plans to ease Raymond back into the mix this weekend, gauging how the safety's ankle responds to a full week of practice while also monitoring where Raymond's conditioning is at.
"At this point, I'm not sure if he can go out and play a full ballgame," Williams said. "Conditioning out on the field in practice is a little bit different from playing in a ballgame. So we want to be cautious with him. We'd rather be conservative than be really aggressive and put him out there for a full game and him not be ready."
Jamarca Sanford supplanted Raymond in the starting lineup in Week 4 and figures to hold down that spot for at least another week. Raymond, however, is ecstatic to be returning and moving past a gruesome injury that left him disconcerted the instant it happened.
"I had a moment where I think I kind of went into shock," Raymond said. "Only because I had never been in that type of situation before. I never had a serious injury at all. So I didn't know what was going on or what to expect. The training staff calmed me down and after that, from the moment I went inside, my attention turned to the rehab process."
That rehab process has included a flood of early mornings in the Winter Park training room working with head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman at 7 a.m. as often as possible.
"Early mornings with Suge," Raymond said. "Those are priceless."
Raymond said he has convinced himself that his right ankle it back at full strength. His next step is restoring his stamina.
"It's more now trying to get back into football shape and run around and get the lungs pumping properly," Raymond said. "That's where my focus is, honestly. It's been more than a month since I really had the opportunity to exert my full energy in a day's practice. So it's something now where I'm trying to push it to the maximum and test myself for how much I can go."
Williams and the coaching staff won't formulate a concrete plan on how to use Raymond against the Seahawks until the week of practice is complete and they've had a chance to consult with the safety about how he feels.
"If he's feeling great at the end of the week and he says, 'Hey Coach, I'm just really ready to go,' we'll ease him into it faster, if you will," Williams said.