VIKINGS: Center John Sullivan, back from injuries, feeling 'like a new person'
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. When training camp began, center John Sullivan almost expected pain every time he planted his feet for a block or squatted to snap the football. That's all he knew after suffering two tears of his left calf last season. More t...
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.
When training camp began, center John Sullivan almost expected pain every time he planted his feet for a block or squatted to snap the football.
That's all he knew after suffering two tears of his left calf last season.
More than four weeks later, Sullivan finds himself shedding the denial in favor of these sweet words: "Man, I'm feeling good."
Through all the moving parts on the offensive line, Sullivan has steadily improved his play on a healthy set of legs. Sullivan said he healed up during the offseason after tearing his calf in late September against Detroit and again in mid-November against Chicago.
"It's like a totally different game," he said. "I feel like a new person."
The fourth-year pro entered the 2010 season brimming with confidence after starting 16 games for a near-Super-Bowl team.
The 304-pound Sullivan had big plans for last season, big enough to play hurt. Sullivan missed two games despite the tears, and he was clearly overmatched against sizable nose tackles because of them.
Fast forward to Saturday's 23-17 preseason loss to Dallas, when Sullivan held his own against the Cowboys' tackles while helping Adrian Peterson rush for 81 yards on 14 carries.
The game marked a resurgence for the interior line, as right guard Anthony Herrera took his first live snaps since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in November and fared well.
The difference in play with a healthy calf can be found "across the board," Sullivan said.
"It allows me to attack more in the run game," Sullivan said. "I'm holding up better in the passing game. I have two legs to work off of instead of basically feeling like I'm playing on maybe one good leg last year. I feel like I'm 100 percent, and I feel like it's showing."
Sullivan, a free agent after this season, struck a relationship with quarterback Donovan McNabb early in training camp after the two went to dinner.
The two understand that the success of the Vikings will hinge partly on the chemistry between the quarterback and center. Sullivan could improve on shotgun snaps that float in the air a bit too long, but otherwise the exchanges have been smooth.
Picking up a new offense and reading protections were never problems for Sullivan, who is considered a bright-minded offensive lineman.
"We always knew he had the talent and intelligence to be a leader for us," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Now with some of the things that he is doing with a year ago behind him, we're seeing what we want to see out of our center."
The team never hinted to Sullivan of a problem at center last season despite what he considered a subpar performance.
He aims to change that opinion, acknowledging that there's "a little bit" of added motivation this year.
"At the same time, I don't really need to come up with tricks like that," Sullivan said. "I want to go out here and prove every single day that I can play at this level and be the starting center for the Minnesota Vikings."
Distributed by MCT Information Services