EAGAN, Minn. — Walk. Run. Practice. Play.
Vikings second-year cornerback Mike Hughes has accomplished the first three of those goals in his journey of rehabbing a torn ACL that was suffered in October 2018.
Hughes, a first-round pick who impressed upon arrival in Minnesota and through his first six pro games, practiced fully last Friday. It was his first such session since he was preparing for the Vikings-Cardinals game in Week 6 of his rookie campaign.
Hughes spoke with media members on Wednesday after fully practicing again, albeit with a brace on his left leg.
"It feels good just to get out here and finally do some football drills and just to be out here with my brothers, get back on the field and compete," Hughes said. "I've been taking everything in stride, and I'm just ready to play."
Asked if he's ready for a game, Hughes said, "I feel like I'm ready."
"I just want to get the OK from the coaches and the doctors," he added. "I'm sure they're going to do everything in my best interest. I'm just following the plan and trusting the process. Whenever they decide I'm ready to play, I'll be ready."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.
Hughes became the first Vikings rookie to return an interception for a touchdown in his NFL debut when he picked off San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo and took it 28 yards in the 2018 season opener. He also totaled three passes defended and three tackles.
In five-plus games, Hughes recorded 20 tackles (19 solo), two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He also returned four kickoffs a total of 107 yards (26.8 average) and two punts a total of 13 yards last season.
Instead of continuing his groove, Hughes was faced with season-ending surgery and left with the grueling grind of a long rehab.
He missed playing but said he is grateful for the support he's had along the way.
"This is the longest I've gone without the game, so of course there will be a lot of emotions," Hughes said. "I just hope everything plays out normal. I just want to go out there and compete."
Hughes said he doesn't know when he'll make his 2019 debut. He said the plan is for him to wear a brace at least in his first game back and then, "we'll figure out what we want to do."
In addition to the hardware, Hughes will have an added appreciation for the opportunity to play the sport he loves as well as the satisfaction of accomplishing so many rehab goals along the way.
"Those first six weeks, I couldn't walk. You never really think about how many things you take for granted," Hughes said. "I think that was a big step for me, to start walking, and once I started running, everything started moving pretty fast. Every milestone that I hit was pretty important. It's a lot to name, honestly, but I've just been taking everything in stride and am glad to be back."