Hartman: Vikings' Sullivan feels confident

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2013 - 12:20 AM
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Center John Sullivan is the one who starts things for the Vikings offense, and he’s feeling good about the team’s starting point this season because he is healthy and his offensive linemates are all back from last season.

Photo: MCKENNA EWEN • Star Tribune file,

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It was some sort of miracle that Adrian Peterson came just 9 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s rushing record last season with the anchor of the Vikings offensive line, center John Sullivan, blocking on a knee that needed surgery in the offseason. While Sullivan, the humble person he is, says that he was never injured, he does admit that “it was more of a degenerative condition in my knee that, once the season was over, needed to be taken care of.”

“Well it was a situation where I would play through it but there was some pain,” he explained. “I had some issues in the range of motion with my knee. So it was determined by the doctors that the best course of action was just to get it fixed in the offseason.”

Sullivan does admit that because of the surgery he missed a lot of the offseason conditioning, “but I feel like I’m getting better each and every day. So yeah, we’ll see how 2013 goes.”

So with a Sullivan who is 100 percent healthy and maybe the best center in the NFL, there is reason to think the Vikings can improve on their overall offensive production in 2013.

Along that same line, Sullivan is optimistic that Peterson will continue to run up big numbers because every starter from the 2012 offensive line is back.

“Continuity is huge,” the former Notre Dame player said. “We’re very happy that we have all five starters returning, but we just need to keep going out and working every single day to get better.”

Asked whether this team can match or exceed last season’s 10-6 record that got it in the playoffs, Sullivan said: “It is hard to put expectations. We’re striving to be the best team that we can be, and that would mean better than 10-6.”

Sullivan believes that, as happened in 2012, the 2013 draftees are going to contribute greatly.

“Three first-round picks, obviously our front office did a great job. I like all three of the first-rounders for sure. Cordarrelle [Patterson, receiver] has looked great in the return game and has very strong hands in the receiving game,” Sullivan said. “Xavier [Rhodes] has made some big plays out there [in the secondary], made a big one against Buffalo. I know Sharrif [Floyd] has dealt with some [injuries] recently, but he’s a force there on the inside and he’s only going to get better as he gets older.”

Speaking about his opinion regarding the value of the preseason games. Sullivan said: “It’s not that they don’t mean anything. They are opportunities to go out there and get better, but you can’t read too much into the outcomes.”

Sullivan said there has been a lot more planning for the 49ers game than there was for the previous two games.

“Obviously it’s the third week so your starters play the most,” he said. “But at the same time it is a preseason game. We’re coming back tomorrow and playing against the Vikings defense, not San Francisco’s. That’s just the way it goes right now.”

Does Sullivan think this season can be one of his best?

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m striving to be a better player in 2013 than I have ever been in my career.”

Grant nearly three-time Vikings coach

Three people I respect a lot as coaches — Bud Grant, Lou Holtz and Bobby Knight — have written some of the best sports and motivation books that I have read.

Naturally, I’m a little prejudiced because all three are good friends. But Knight and Grant have come out with terrific new books recently.

Grant has an interesting item in his book, “I Did It My Way,” which tells the story about Grant’s potential opportunity to succeed Mike Tice as Vikings head coach in 2005. Negotiations didn’t go far because team owner Red McCombs couldn’t come close to matching the salary Grant wanted.

In the book Grant says he wanted to be paid $1 less than the highest-paid coach in the NFL at the time. Grant told McCombs, “I was a head coach for 28 years and we won many championships and went to four Super Bowls, so that’s my counteroffer.”

But McCombs and the Vikings simply couldn’t pay Grant that much money.

The truth is that Grant also turned down the opportunity to be the first Vikings coach when he was working in the Canadian Football League for Winnipeg and also received a formal offer to coach the Lions, which he turned down.

Kill sees players make big jump

Gophers football coach Jerry Kill was asked which players have really improved their standings on the depth chart going into the season opener against UNLV on Thursday.

“Off the top of my head, we’ve had a lot of guys,” Kill said. “Roland Johnson [defensive lineman] has played really well. He is coming off that knee surgery and he really dominated at the line of scrimmage, I thought. [Thieren] Cockran [defensive end] has stood out in camp and has really rose up to the top of the depth chart.

“The two junior college linebackers … I mean, you walk out on the practice field and Damien Wilson and De’Vondre Campbell — it’s easy to spot those guys. We’ve had a lot of guys get better. Marcus Jones is playing in the secondary... and showed the speed he had when he first got here. He’ll be a big influence on special teams.”

SID’s JOTTINGS
• For a while during the Twins season, the rumors were strong that Ron Gardenhire would not be back with the Twins. But if you are a betting man now, make a bet that Gardenhire will be back again next season, likely with a one-year contract and some type of option.

• Mark Dienhart was the senior vice president
at St. Thomas for the past five years, and has been at the university in various major roles since 2001. In his time the Tommies became a power in almost every sport because of his ability to hire the right coaches and make sure programs were run the right way. But now he has left that position to run the Schultz Family Foundation, so the future of St. Thomas athletics should be interesting.

• The Timberwolves have 14 players under contract now and have a 15th spot for another player. “We’re going to probably bring guys in at training camp and let those guys really kind of fight it out for that last spot,” said Flip Saunders, team president. “[Robbie] Hummell is going to be one of those guys that we plan on coming in, [Lorenzo] Brown is going to come in, too, that one last spot, unless there’s some potential trade that happens.”

• Yes, the big three of Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, Rashad Vaughn of Findlay Prep in Las Vegas and formerly of Cooper, and Reid Travis of DeLaSalle have been getting the big write-ups of the 2014 class of recruits. But J.P. Macura of Lakeville North has been offered scholarships by Auburn, St. Louis, Butler, Texas Tech, Xavier, Kansas State, Purdue and Minnesota. Incidentally, Travis, an outstanding quarterback, is giving up football because of a leg injury.

• One of the most recruited football players in the
state is Frank Ragnow of Chanhassen. He has either visited to plans to visit Arkansas, Florida State and Nebraska.

 

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2014 preseason     
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Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pm
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
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Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
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