Center John Sullivan, who will be sidelined at least six more weeks after undergoing back surgery two weeks ago, spoke with reporters today for the first time since going under the knife on Sept. 9. While it is still too early to pencil in a potential return date, he says he is “progressing pretty fast.”
Sullivan first started to be bothered by the injury during the second week of training camp, while the Vikings were preparing to play the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game. Figuring it was just a sore back and that he could play through the pain, he started the first two preseason games. He took a couple of epidurals, but when his recovery plateaued, team doctors and an independent spine specialist decided surgery was the only other option.
“The nice part for me is going into the surgery I didn’t know I would be on [injured reserve] designated to return,” Sullivan said. “I think they were waiting for some more information on how things looked once they got in there. And to find out the next day that my season’s not over, that it’s just delayed, that was great news. And I have something to look forward to and I’m going to be back this year helping this team win.”
The herniated disk that required surgery was the first significant back injury of his career. The 310-pound center said the rest of his disks looked fine and the doctors told him that this shouldn’t be a recurring injury.
Sullivan said the “main therapy” in his recovery so far has been a lot of walking. He has started to do tabletop exercises along with “some strength movements.” He believes the eight-week window on his IR designation will give him adequate time to build up his strength again before playing.
Sullivan, who had only sat out three games in his career before this season, said it has been hard to watch his teammates play while sidelined.
“There’s a measure of guilt,” said Sullivan, who had started 57 straight games before missing the opener. “And I’ve spoken with my wife and the rest of my family and my support system, the training staff here, and I understand it’s completely illogical to feel guilty about being injured, especially in this sport. But you just can’t help but feel like you’re letting people down.”
He hasn’t sat in on team meetings yet, but he has met with his replacement, Joe Berger, and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to discuss protection calls and other center-specific things. That has made him feel a little involved.
He is getting back in the swing of things at home, too. Sullivan and his wife had their first child in August around when his back injury first surfaced.
“I can lift a baby, although I haven’t changed too many diapers,” he joked. “My wife’s been awesome, really picked up the slack. It was tough on her, basically taking care of two babies. I was pretty useless there for a while.”