Sullivan’s absence from Vikings’ preseason doesn’t concern Zimmer
By Chris Tomasson St. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan has played in 57 consecutive NFL regular-season games. Coach Mike Zimmer doesn't seem too concerned about the streak possibly ending. Sullivan sat out ...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan has played in 57 consecutive NFL regular-season games. Coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t seem too concerned about the streak possibly ending.
Sullivan sat out practice Monday with back spasms and hasn’t practiced since Aug. 18. Still, Zimmer claimed he isn’t worried.
“Not really,” Zimmer said. “He’s getting better every day. We might get him out here a little (Tuesday). We’ll see.”
Zimmer wouldn’t speculate on Sullivan’s chances of playing in next Monday’s regular-season opener at San Francisco, saying, “We’ll see how he improves.” Zimmer did say he’s “encouraged” by the center’s recovery process.
Sullivan, who sat out the final three exhibition games, last missed a regular-season game Oct. 23, 2011 at Green Bay. Sullivan suffered what he had said was his fifth concussion in October at Buffalo but was back in the lineup the next week at Tampa Bay.
If Sullivan can’t go against the 49ers, Joe Berger would get the call at center. He’s been working with the first team in practice.
“You always got to prepare to start,” Berger said. “Right now, I’m out there at the center spot and, yeah, that’s my mentality. If it changes, it changes. That’s not my concern.”
If Sullivan misses the opener, it would lead to even more questions about Minnesota’s offensive line. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said last week the Vikings are “extremely thin” there and they’ve “got to have a little luck up front.”
The right side of the line has been the biggest concern. The Vikings in the opener will start rookie tackle T.J. Clemmings and Mike Harris will start a game at guard for the first time in his life.
The Vikings took a step over the weekend to address the line. They acquired guard/tackle Jeremiah Sirles from San Diego, and he took part Monday in his first Vikings practice.
“He’s a guy that played some last year,” Zimmer said of the second-year man, who played in two games as a rookie, including starting the regular-season finale. “We watched him throughout the preseason, and we just felt like we needed some more people there. We obviously scoured all kinds of rosters throughout this and he was a guy we kind of pinpointed.”
Despite all the questions about the line, Zimmer said he’s not ready to call it the team’s biggest concern. He said he has concerns that include how “we can cover the pass the right way, we rush the quarterback the right way, we stop the run on defense.”
All of those Zimmer mentioned are on defense. On the other side of the ball, Zimmer said the Vikings “have a chance to have a good offense” if everything comes together.
On defense, Zimmer said he still hasn’t decided who his starter will be at middle linebacker. The favorite is Gerald Hodges, who started the final two preseason games and played well.
The Vikings have plenty of depth at linebacker. That resulted in them Saturday having to waive third-year man Michael Mauti, who was claimed the next day by New Orleans.
Zimmer said it was “hard” making the cuts at linebacker. The Vikings needed roster spots to acquire Sirles and to hold on to undrafted rookie Taylor Heinicke as a third-string quarterback.
“(Heinicke) got better every week from the first day that he came in here until these preseason games,” Zimmer said “I think he’s got something to him.”
Heinicke won’t be behind center against the 49ers; it will be Teddy Bridgewater. Who snaps Bridgewater the ball remains to be seen.
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