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Sullivan on Road to Recovery, Excited About Future

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — It was a season unlike any other for John Sullivan.

While the Vikings went 11-5 and won their first NFC North championship since 2009, the longtime Minnesota center was plagued by a back injury that caused him to miss the entire season.

Sullivan, who spoke with "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen on KFAN 100.3-FM Friday morning on the 9 to Noon show, said it was bittersweet to watch his teammates do well while he sat at home on the couch.

View some of the best images of the offensive linemen from 2015.

"I know it was a successful year for the Vikings, which was great," Sullivan said. "You win the NFC North for the first time since 2009 but on a personal level it was just tough.

"I missed playing," he added. "It was a tough injury and right now I'm on the road to recovery. I'm not going to make any proclamations because I don't want to jinx myself but I'm doing a lot better."

Sullivan, who had a pair of back surgeries this fall, credited Vikings trainers Eric Sugarman and Tom Hunkele for helping him on his road to recovery.

"I'm doing well, finally getting better," Sullivan said. "I think I'm 16 weeks out post-op from the second surgery. I'm doing stuff back on the field, back in the weight room. It's just been a long road.

"It's definitely an injury you can come back from…plenty of guys have," Sullivan added. "Linemen, tight ends, running backs…the full spectrum of position groups. Now we're getting to the point where we can push it a little bit and get me back into shape."

Although Sullivan didn't play a game this year, the eight-year veteran said he thinks the team is primed for future success under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

"I think we probably exceeded expectations in 2014 winning seven games," Sullivan said. "We come back this year and we're not given a lot of a chance … this team is built up for long-term success.

"But you also can't take that for granted, 'Oh, we won 11 games this year. It's going to be more next year.' So many of these games are razor close in who wins.

"This all starts with Coach Zim'," Sullivan added. "He's a tough guy and he's straight with you. He doesn't mince words, and guys appreciate that."

Sullivan also praised Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, a two-time Super Bowl winner. 

"If anybody doesn't like or respect Norv Turner, it's because they've never worked with him and they don't know him," Sullivan said. "He is a great guy and a great coach. I love playing for him."

Sullivan, who had started every game the previous three seasons before his injury, will have a new position coach in 2016. Tony Sparano was hired last month.

"I'm excited to work with him," Sullivan said. "First of all, he's from Connecticut originally so he's got to be a great guy. 

View images of the Vikings new offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

"He's coached a lot of teams in a lot of different roles … he's coached incredibly successful offensive lines, great units and great players."

Speaking with Allen for more than 30 minutes (click here to listen to the full show), Sullivan looked ahead to the future.

Sullivan, who will spend the entire offseason rehabbing in Minnesota, drove by U.S. Bank Stadium earlier this week and marveled at the sight of it. 

"I'm going to be upset if I don't get to play in that stadium because it's awesome," Sullivan said. "It's really the perfect backdrop and the perfect story for a team that's ascending like we are."

He later added: "The only thing I can control is getting healthy. I fully plan on playing for the Minnesota Vikings in 2016."

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