Michael Mauti (Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY)
Rookie linebacker Michael Mauti is getting his first real action with the Vikings as he returns from a knee injury. Mauti sat out all of organized team activities and minicamp while recovering from knee surgery, but he started training camp on the active roster.
As the Vikings took to the field at Minnesota State, Mankato for the first practice of training camp, they were only two players short on the field. The team announced second-year wide receiver Greg Childs and rookie linebacker Nate Williams are starting training on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
But just as important were the players who weren’t on the PUP list, notably rookie linebacker Michael Mauti.
At his morning press conference, head coach Leslie Frazier said that keeping Childs and Williams out of action was expected and precautionary. Childs, who suffered a devastating injury in which both of his patellar tendons were torn simultaneously, is still in the recovery process, while Williams, who suffered an ankle injury that required surgery in the spring, was given a little more time before testing it during practice sessions.
“We have two guys that are going to be on the PUP list,” Frazier said. “Greg Childs will be one of those guys and after talking with Nate Williams, we felt the ankle he had surgery on just wasn’t quite ready yet, so we’re going to give him a little more time before we put him on the field. Other than that, everybody should be ready to go this afternoon.”
Mauti was another story. A player with a mid-round draft grade by most draft analysts, dropped all the way to the seventh round following a significant knee injury that required surgery late last year – the third knee surgery of his college career. It was expected Mauti would be a long shot to be healthy enough for training camp, but Frazier said he never underestimate the healing power of motivated players.
“I don’t know if it’s a complete surprise,” Frazier said. “We weren’t sure if he would quite be ready when we left the mandatory minicamp, but we were hoping he would be ready to practice. After spending some time with him – our coaches worked him out a little bit this morning just to make sure that we were doing the right thing with him – he moved around well enough that our trainers felt we needed to get him on the field and let him do football stuff with coaches.”
When Mauti passed the tests with the training staff, he was ready to hit the field full steam and try to make an impact with a Vikings defense that has more questions than answers at the linebacker position. Mauti’s inclusion will allow the coaching staff to give him a comparative look with the other linebackers, something Frazier said will be valuable for both the coaches and Mauti.
“We’re pleased about it for sure, because we want to be able to take a look at him and evaluate him,” Frazier said. “Now we get a chance to do that and I know he’s anxious to get out there. He’s a guy who loves football. It will be good for him and good for us.”
THE JOKE’S ON WHO?
Of all the players on the practice field for the walk-through this morning, none was a happier sight for Frazier than Adrian Peterson. A year ago, Peterson was the only person convinced he was 100 percent recovered from major knee surgery. A year later, he’s looking to top his own 2,097-yard rushing season, but Frazier couldn’t help but poke a little fun at his star running back.
“We were going through our walk-through and there he was participating,” Frazier said. “A year ago, he couldn’t be involved in some of these things. We had him working off to the side with our trainers. It’s far different in so many ways. I was teasing him. I said, “I don’t think you’re in as good a shape as you were a year ago.’ He looked at me and he goes, ‘We’ll see, we’ll see,’ with a smile.”
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.