While the Minnesota Vikings didn’t suffer a ton of significant injuries over the course of the 2017 NFL season, there are three particular players that fans are probably curious about. Thanks to Courtney Cronin of ESPN, we now have some updates on how those players are faring in their rehab.
The biggest of the three names is running back Dalvin Cook. Cook got off to a fantastic start to his rookie campaign, but tore his ACL in the Vikings’ Week 4 loss to the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium.
General manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings have no reason to believe that Cook “won’t be stronger than he was before the injury” when he makes his expected return in time for training camp. The Vikings’ top running back returned to jogging in January and is on pace to be ready for the 2018 season. But with the possible departure of Jerick McKinnon in free agency, Minnesota will need to find a No. 3 rusher in case Cook isn’t 100 percent by Week 1 and Latavius Murray has to shoulder that load. Spielman likened Cook’s rehabilitation to that of Adrian Peterson’s when the former Vikings running back returned from the torn ACL he sustained in 2011 and rushed for 2,097 yards the following season. “We don’t see any reason where he’s not going to be where Adrian Peterson was when he came off his knee [injury],” Spielman said.
Now, I’m not a doctor or anything like that, but I’m not sure if we should go around comparing Adrian Peterson’s ability to return from injury to Dalvin Cook’s. . .or anybody else’s, for that matter. Peterson was a once in a generation athletic specimen, and I’m not completely sure if that’s a good baseline for people rehabbing ACL injuries. I also don’t know the difference in severity between Cook’s injury and Peterson’s. Still, as Cronin points out, the Vikings are going to have to find a third running back with McKinnon likely leaving for greener pastures this offseason.
The Vikings also had two offensive linemen suffer significant lower leg injuries late in the season. Both guard Nick Easton and center Pat Elflein suffered fractured ankles in the last few weeks of Minnesota’s season, and while both will apparently be ready by Training Camp, they’re both at different stages of rehab right now and could be limited in their participation in offseason workouts. We’ll start with Easton:
Easton is still utilizing a scooter to get around after undergoing surgery to repair his broken ankle. He told ESPN during Super Bowl week that he anticipates being able to participate in some capacity during the Vikings’ offseason workouts and is undergoing intensive rehab so he’ll be ready in time for training camp at the end of July. Easton’s fracture was the first season-ending injury he has had in the NFL. He’ll become a restricted free agent in a couple of weeks but is expected to re-sign with Minnesota.
Easton did a fairly solid job this season, stepping in at the left guard spot following the Vikings giving veteran Alex Boone the boot after just one season. As Cronin says in the article, Easton is probably going to re-sign with the Vikings anyway. Whether he starts in 2018 or the Vikings attempt to upgrade at the position and put Easton in a reserve role is something to keep an eye on.
Last, we’ll see how Elflein is doing:
Elflein underwent successful surgery on his left ankle the Monday of Super Bowl week. It’s still too early to tell what (if any) work he’ll be able to do with the Vikings this spring, but he’s expected to be on schedule to return at the start of training camp.
Easton and Elflein had similar injuries, by all accounts. When it comes to the rehab process, Easton has about a one-month headstart on Elflein, which is why Elflein’s status for offseason workouts is more questionable than Easton’s is. Still, Elflein showed plenty of promise in his rookie year as the starter at center, and he should be a centerpiece. . .see what I did there. . .of the Vikings’ offensive line rebuild as it moves into its second season.