As the Vikings dealt with the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, they quietly released veteran center John Sullivan on Tuesday afternoon.
Sullivan, 31, manned the middle of the Vikings offensive line for six consecutive seasons after he took over the starting job from Matt Birk in 2009. A herniated disk in Sullivan’s back last season ended his streak of season-opening starts. Two back surgeries and competition from Joe Berger were too much to overcome for Sullivan, who coach Mike Zimmer said wasn’t the best option on the roster.
“It was tough, but we’re always going to try to do what’s in the best interest of the football team,” Zimmer said. “We thought Berger played good all last year. Thought he had a good preseason. We rotated them every single day and from our grades, and the way we graded things, we thought Berger was better.”
Berger found a fountain of youth after starting a career-high 17 games in his 11th season last year. The 34-year-old offensive lineman reunited with former position coach Tony Sparano this offseason and didn’t let go of the starting job — save for two spot starts at guard this preseason.
Sullivan started those two exhibitions at center before ceding Sunday’s start against San Diego to Berger. Sullivan suited up, but did not play, and word quickly surfaced the Vikings were trying to trade him.
After not finding an acceptable offer, Sullivan was released in a move that saves the Vikings more than $5 million because his salary was not guaranteed for the upcoming season. So they press on with Berger in the center of a revamped offensive line also featuring guard Alex Boone and tackle Andre Smith.
“Our entire organization appreciates everything that John Sullivan has done for this franchise,” General Manager Rick Spielman said in a statement. “Sullivan led our team, not only with how he played the game, but also with how he handled himself in our community. We wish John Sullivan and his family nothing but the best as they move forward.”
Sullivan was a sixth-round draft pick (187th overall) in 2008 out of Notre Dame.
Stoudermire among released players
Receiver Troy Stoudermire walked to his car after practice, a mesh bag carrying his belongings dangled over his shoulder.
Stoudermire, the Gophers’ all-time leading kick returner, was the only Vikings player to actually practice Tuesday before he was told he had been released. He was one of 14 players to be officially let go as all NFL preseason rosters needed to be trimmed to 75.
The other outgoing players were either injured or notified beforehand. Among the ailing were safety Antone Exum Jr. and defensive tackle Scott Crichton. Both were waived with injury designations on Tuesday. If they are not claimed on waivers, they’ll revert to the Vikings’ injured reserve list.
Quarterback Brad Sorensen was among those waived, but Bridgewater’s injury makes it likely Sorensen will be re-signed.
Defensive lineman Theiren Cockran, defensive lineman Claudell Louis, offensive lineman Austin Shepherd, receiver Marken Michel, receiver Terrell Sinkfield, linebacker Terrance Plummer, offensive lineman Sean Hickey and tight end Brian Leonhardt also were waived. Offensive lineman Mike Harris was moved to the reserve/non-football illness list to open another roster spot.
The Vikings have until Saturday afternoon to cut the roster to the regular-season limit of 53 players.