Vikings Running Back
Head Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman:
We are about 19 weeks post-op with Adrian, and I know his goal hasn’t changed from when we stood here 18 weeks ago, talking about getting ready to play in our first game against Jacksonville on September 9th. He certainly has attacked the rehab, as we expected. It’s been a great approach with a so far good result. We are happy with where he is at. We are very optimistic about his full recovery down the line; we are, however, going to remain realistic about our expectations moving forward, the next four months, getting from May 9th to September 9th. As it’s all over the media today, I’m not going to say with certainty that Adrian is going to play in our first game. That wouldn’t be fair to me, to him or to this organization, that’s a long way off from now and we certainly have a long road to go to get to that point. To say that today, would not be fair and I’m not going to do that or promise that to anyone. What we do now moving forward; you saw some of it, these are the types of things that we do, now we have to continue to up the protocol, continue to increase the rehabilitation and do things like restore his function, restore his comfort in his knee and most importantly restore the confidence that he has in his knee, that’s most important. This decision, ultimately at the end, is not going to be my decision, it’s going to be a team effort, and it’s an organizational decision whenever anyone is injured. It will be a decision that the medical team makes, with the surgeon, with Rick Spielman, with Coach Frazier and of course most importantly with Adrian.
First off, let me start by saying a special thanks to all my fans out there who have been supporting me through this process, whether it’s through tweets, fan mail or prayers, I really appreciate it. It has really helped me through this process, mentally and physically.
Q: Eric Sugarman talked about getting confidence in the knee, where is your confidence level?
A: It’s light-years from where it was four months ago. I am definitely getting more confident, just the strength and being able to get back to doing some of the things that I am used to doing, as far as cutting and being more explosive, but I am still four months out and there is still more confidence that I can gain and continue to step up my game in rehab. Eric and his staff are doing a good job of keeping me level. Right now I get to the point where I want to do more than I need to be doing, and those guys know my limits, and they push me to it.
Q: Do you feel any pain anymore?
A: No pain. I can say, through this whole process, there was one day where I said, ‘You know what, I need to take a day off and just rest’, just not do anything, no rehab, and just let it rest. Other than that, you have the wear and tear of the process, and me personally, since I am going through it, just to be able to feel the change in the patella tendon, where I can feel it’s getting looser, I can get my flexibility back, I can feel the scar tissue is starting to break, and that’s the only difference I feel. No pain or anything like that, just soreness from a week or two weeks’ worth of work. That’s pretty much it.
Q: What’s the biggest hurdle to clear next? Cutting a certain way?
A: I would say, just the ability to get back to where I want; the cutting ability and being as explosive as I used to be, and better. That’s the goal, I feel like that is the challenge right now. I think I’m doing pretty good, as far as running. Conditioning-wise I feel like I have a long ways to go, but I am making strides. The biggest hurdle I am trying to jump right now is being explosive, being able to cut like I once did before.
Q: As much as you try to keep realistic expectations, would you be surprised if you weren’t playing in that first game?
A: I will be. I will be very surprised. I have been ahead of the schedule since day one. The staff here in Minnesota, the staff down in Houston, they have been doing a great job of just pushing me and pushing me, but having that limit on it, knowing I want to do this, I just have to play it slow and it will come. From square one I have been ahead of the curve. So, me personally, because that’s my goal, I set my goals and expectations high, and that first game against Jacksonville I plan on being back. It will be disappointing if I am not.
Q: In your mind, are you set on being back for that game, or is what the trainers are saying getting to you? If you rush this thing back and it goes wrong, it’s a huge setback.
A: I am set on what my mindset is. People will say what they want to say, I have my goals and my whole life I have been setting my goals and pushing forward and I have been successful at doing that my whole life. I have been smart, don’t get me wrong, I have been smart about the process and I am four months out. I am at the point where I am able to start back cutting and doing the things that I have been used to doing. Right now I feel like it is more important for me to get my strength. I feel like the conditioning will come once I am able to let loose. I will be able to come out here and run 12 one-hundreds to get my conditioning to where I want to get it. right now it’s all about willing myself to being explosive and cutting and getting myself as strong as possible, so when it’s time for me to get my conditioning to where it needs to be, I can be full blown.
Q: When does your schedule say you can start doing football type activities?
A: There is no set timetable; you basically just judge it on the guys function. He is to the point now where he is just about safe to do just about anything, so we gradually ramp him up to functional activity and when we get to the point where he is comfortable and has normal strength back to the other side or better than the other side and can function as he needs to then we make that decision.
Q: That’s the measurement, you test the knee against the good one?
A: Yeah, that’s one of the measurements, there are a bunch of measurements, but that is one that we look at.
Q: Is your sense that when you map this out and tell him to be careful, that that’s getting through to him?
A: Yeah, I think so. He realizes now that there is too much to lose by doing something foolish the past four months and the next four months. He has been pretty good, you have to pull back on the reigns once in a while to remind him, but he has been pretty good about it and I am on record as saying that it will continue.
Q: When did he reach that point when you thought he was safe to do pretty much anything?
A: Really, just recently. Right about 16-18 weeks is where you start looking to do things like cutting and we felt comfortable with it at that point so we have just started doing that kind of stuff.
Q: Realistically, from the time he is cleared to do football activities, how much time does he need to be on the field in that sort of environment before you feel comfortable in the game?
A: There is no answer to that, everybody is different. I’m not skating around the question, but everybody has been different that we have had. He will determine it with his ability to function, and you will just have to watch him.
Q: What has been the range at recovery from past ACL injuries?
(ES) A: If guys are on PUP (physically unable to perform) for instance, and came off, the last guy might have been Cedric (Griffin) that comes to mind, practiced for a few weeks and played. It’s not a long time. Usually when they come off PUP, they are ready to resume activity. It’s just everyone else getting confident in them by seeing them do their job, coaches, etc.
Q: Is there anything you experienced that you were surprised by or didn’t expect?
A: Not really. Pretty much what I heard from Eric and some of the guys, it was pretty much how things played out. When I was going back from Houston here to Minnesota, I ran into
Q: How much have you paid attention to the Vikings offseason and what have you thought about it?
A: To be honest, I pay attention to it a little bit. The draft is more of my thing, to see the new faces and guys that we bring in and I feel like Rick Spielman and his guys did a great job adding some new pieces in here. When the guys come in here, I’ll be anxious to meet them and make sure they have the right mindset that we’re heading in and that we’re building this organization into a championship team.
Q: How much of your motivation to make it back is the fact that this team needs you to win games?
A: That’s the biggest part of my motivation. I know how much I mean to this organization and just my mentality, I want to be out there to help my team and to help this organization accomplish the ultimate goal. From day one, when I walked off the field, I had to accept it for what it was and I knew it was an ACL and from that point on, I struggled for a couple of days but I got my mindset back to, ‘Hey, this is what I need to do to accomplish my goal as far as being back the first week against Jacksonville.’ I’ve just been doing that and trying not to look backwards.
Q: Last week Leslie Frazier told us that you got permission to run with the team and apparently you finished first.
A: Yeah, that felt pretty good. I was out here with Eric. We were doing some one-on-one drills and the guys were lining up and doing half gassers and I looked over at Eric and he had a look on his face like, ‘Okay, I already know what you want to do.’ Took the brace off and jumped in line with the skill guys and ran a couple of gassers and it worked out good. I finished in first place running against those guys. I looked at it as far as those guys understanding of, ‘Hey, he’s really pushing hard to get back out here and get to that level he played at before,’ and it was even more motivation for those guys to be like, ‘Hey, he’s out here four months and he’s beating us, maybe we need to do something different.’ It worked out in both ways.
Q: What’s the challenge right now with stopping and decelerating?
A: I would say that, outside of cutting, I feel like that is probably the biggest challenge. I feel like I am cutting pretty good and planting, not to where I want to be but it’s pretty good. The bigger challenge is accelerating and decelerating and I came out here yesterday and did some drills for the first time with Sugarman and we did like hundreds, 10 yards, running full speed and coming to a dead stop and it was challenging but when I fought through it, I was able to finish it and I got some good work in.
Q: As far as your cutting and explosiveness, what percentage are you at compared to when you are fully healthy?
A: I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to gauge. I feel like I’m over 50 percent. That’s just saying, that’s a rough estimate. I would say it’s over fifty percent as far as cutting and being explosive.
Q: If you are able to play in the first game, could you see yourself in a limited role versus being the workhorse back for this team?
A: To be honest, I don’t see myself in a limited role. I want to be out there full throttle but when that time comes, we’ll play the cards how they lay. I feel like I’ll be able to go out there and help my team in whatever way the suit fits and that’s where my mindset is going to stay at.
Q: What was that third month like when you had to pull the reigns back?
A: It was tough because like they said, you’re feeling good and I was definitely feeling good. I wanted to get out there and start running immediately and start doing other cuts and things like that but when I look at the big picture, I just have to follow the protocol and be smart and know that, ‘Hey, you just have to get through this month, do what you can, and do it to the max. Once that month is passed, you’ll be able to cut. You’re going to be able to put that power on as far as cutting and lifting like you’re used to doing. Don’t sacrifice that by wanting to rush this month when you need to rest.’
Q: Where does the mentality of you wanting to be the workhorse back come from?
A: It’s just the way I’m wired. I’ve been this way since I was young, since I started playing this game at age seven. I always wanted to be the best at whatever I did, whether it was sprints, lifting, whatever. After 17 years of that, it becomes a part of you and is instilled in me. It’s just the way I am.
Q: When you see the bounty stuff come out, what is your reaction?
A: I bet it won’t happen again. I feel for those guys, (Jonathan) Vilma, Will Smith, and those guys that got punished. I wouldn’t wish that on them at all but to be honest my first thought was, ‘I’m sure guys will think twice about doing this again.’ It was unfortunate, but hey, it happened. It is what it is.