With a resistance band strapped around his waist and a brace on his left knee, Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes backpedaled through ongoing physical rehabilitation during Tuesday’s practice.
That’s where Hughes will remain until the Vikings wrap their offseason program June 13.
Hughes, more than seven months removed from ACL surgery, hasn’t practiced with the team and won’t until at least training camp in late July, according to coach Mike Zimmer. The 2018 first-round pick underwent surgery Oct. 23 after his rookie season was cut short in the sixth game.
Mackensie Alexander has taken the lead this spring at slot cornerback, where he split reps with Hughes at the start of last season.
General Manager Rick Spielman said April 23 that Hughes was “a little ahead of schedule” in his rehab, however, unlike running back Dalvin Cook, who injured an ACL in Week 4 of his rookie season, Hughes will not see the field before training camp. A year ago, Cook had been cleared for full team drills by mandatory minicamp, for which Hughes already has been ruled out.
The Vikings still have three months before the season opener against the Falcons.
“Mike Hughes is working extremely hard on his rehab to get him back,” Spielman told the Star Tribune last month. “We have a lot of good depth there at the corner position.”
Morgan ready for camp
David Morgan, the Vikings’ No. 2 tight end last season, said he’ll be ready for training camp in late July. Entering the final year of his contract, Morgan has been sidelined this spring by an undisclosed injury, which he declined to discuss; Morgan missed five games last season because of a knee injury.
He carried a play sheet in his hand throughout Tuesday’s practice while helping young tight ends Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin.
“I didn’t realize Irv was so young — 20 years old,” Morgan said. “That’s really awesome for him to come in here and play like a pro. This tight end room is awesome.”
‘Good deal’ of carry-over
Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has said he’ll let the backup quarterback battles “play out” through the summer. But it’s Sean Mannion who has taken every rep with the second-team offense during three spring practices open to reporters.
Mannion, the ex-Rams backup and fifth-year NFL veteran, is aided by a new Vikings playbook he says has similarities with Rams coach Sean McVay’s in Los Angeles.
“There’s been a good deal of carry-over,” Mannion said. “A lot of the play-action stuff. The run-action [plays] have been really good. What Kevin [Stefanski] and coach [Gary Kubiak] have been trying to instill is — how can we be about all the little details? When you’re sharp about the little things, everything complements each other.”
‘Prove people wrong’
Vikings defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa is one year removed from a torn ACL that cut short his rookie season and two years removed from being one of college football’s most disruptive defenders. Now he’s trying to make the Vikings roster as a 275-pound defensive tackle. The former Washington standout and All-PAC 12 selection gained 20 pounds this offseason to better fit the NFL standard.
He’s since impressed coaches with quickness while earning an occasional first-team rep this spring. The Hawaiian native said his undrafted status remains a motivation to make the team.
“It’d ease my ego, in a way,” Mata’afa said. “Just prove people wrong.”
Receiver Stefon Diggs was the only Vikings player absent from Tuesday’s voluntary practice. Four others — Hughes, Morgan, defensive end Tashawn Bower (ankle) and linebacker Reshard Cliett — watched practice from the sideline. Nose tackle Linval Joseph (offseason surgery) continues to be held out of 11-on-11 sessions.