Notebook: Pat Elflein on Getting Healthy, Sparano’s Impact

EAGAN, Minn. — Pat Elflein is keeping a positive attitude despite a low-key offseason and a recent tragedy.

The Vikings center was placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Wednesday, meaning Elflein cannot practice until being medically cleared to do so.

But the 2017 third-round pick said he’s focused on making sure he’s 100 percent ready to go as training camp begins to ramp up.

“I’m feeling good. Been working hard all offseason trying to get myself back to [full] strength,” said Elflein, a member of PFWA’s All-Rookie Team in 2017. “I’m not discouraged. I’m just taking it one day at a time and working hard every day. Just trying to get back so I’m not discouraged at all.”

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that it “shouldn’t be too long” before Elflein returns to the field.

Elflein said Thursday that he had ankle surgery shortly after Minnesota’s season ended in the NFC title game. Elflein, who suffered the ankle injury in that game, then underwent shoulder surgery for an injury he suffered in the last month of the season.

He missed two regular-season games but started both playoff contests.

“It’s NFL football. It’s a long season, so everyone has nicks and dings like that,” Elflein said. “At that point in the season it’s like, ‘Alright, I’m not the only one that’s out here playing hurt.’ I’ve played hurt before. I think everyone has played hurt. It’s part of the game.”

Elflein said it was a “rough” offseason. He utilized a scooter to get around and also spent time in a sling.

But his rehab didn’t match the pain and sadness of the news he received Sunday that Tony Sparano had unexpectedly passed away at the age of 56.

“Oh man, that’s tough. Tony made me a better player and a better man. He took me to places I couldn’t go as a player and as a man,” Elflein said. “It wasn’t just football with him. He really cared about his players, the well-being of his players. It hurts.”

Elflein added that he doesn’t expect the offensive line’s personality to change from the way Sparano had molded the group in recent years.

“That’s the leader of our room. When you spend so much time with somebody and so many hours, you kind of develop what they want and how they do things,” Elflein said. “He was a successful coach and a successful line coach and he coached us up well and we played great.

“You just kind of develop that personality, and it’s still there. You can still sense it in the room,” Elflein added. “Tony is not there, but he is. His presence is there just because of what we’ve taken from him. It’s still there.”

Elflein worked with trainers on the side during Thursday’s practice before eventually watching the remainder of the session with teammates.

The 23-year-old said he has taken a patient approach as he gears up for his second season.

“You kind of have to heal up first,” Elflein said. “You want to lift weights and get stronger than you were the year before, and you want to do all these things to improve on what you’ve already built.

“But when you get an injury, that kind of [goes to] the backburner. You have to get yourself healthy enough first to progress to that,” Elflein added. “You’re training a little bit, but it makes you put priority on what you have to take care of first. You don’t want to rush things and try and do things too much.”

Hughes fulfills dream for mother: First-round draft pick Mike Hughes celebrated the signing of his first pro contract last week by purchasing a house for his mother, Tashida Jones.

Hughes spoke with members of the media on Thursday after his second training camp practice, the same day that Jones got the keys to her new home in New Bern, North Carolina.

“She cried, and it hit me,” Hughes said. “It just felt good. It was something I wanted to do for a long time, since I’ve been playing, and just to fulfill it was a dream come true.”

Hughes said he had Jones pick out the home which includes a room for him when he’s able to visit.

“She’s my motivation,” Hughes said. “I’ve had some ups and downs, and she’s been there every step, so to do that for her, was big.”

Youth football players visit: The Vikings hosted more than a dozen youth football players on Thursday.

The youth were from the Minnesota Youth 7 on 7 (My7on7) Passing League. The group watched the walk-through session before getting autographs from a handful of players.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins, running backs Mack Brown and Mike Boone and wide receivers Cayleb Jones and Jeff Badet stopped by to interact with the youth and autograph mini footballs.

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