Greg Childs waited until after Tuesday's practice to start running routes, but he knew it would draw a reaction when he finished.
He was running hard into his breaks, planting and turning like any fully healthy receiver would. Only Childs hasn't been fully healthy in a long time, and the black sleeves on each of knees to lend support are proof of that.
When Childs tore both his patellar tendons on Aug. 11, 2012, landing awkwardly at Vikings training camp, there was concern he may never play again. It was the second time that had happened to his right knee. He blew out that same tendon in October 2010 while at the University of Arkansas.
The braces were the only visible reminder of those injuries Tuesday as he ran routes following the team's practice.
"There's nothing I can't do right now. I could do everything I was doing before, better than I was doing before, right now," Childs said. "But it's just not rushing it, not getting too excited because I do all those things. They've been telling me to pump the brakes because I get out here and I'm like, ‘Man, let me do this. I want to do that. I'm ready to do that.' They're just like, ‘No, no, no. Stick to the schedule because you see how it's been progressing, how things have been working out good for you, so there's no sense in breaking it now. So that's what we've been doing now. We've been sticking to our plan."
Childs had surgery performed by team physician Joel Boyd shortly after the injury at the team's annual training camp scrimmage, but Boyd tightened up the tendons, something that wasn't done in the first surgery he had following the initial injury at Arkansas.
Last week, Childs lined up as a defensive back for the scout team during some offensive installations but wasn't running or cutting during practice. However, he said that the routine he went through following Tuesday's practice has been going on "for a while now."
"This wasn't my first day out here cutting. I've been cutting for a good little while. Mostly when (the media sees) me, I come out here and do straights and I go back inside," Childs said. "When I go back inside, what I do is pushing sleds, pulling sleds, cardio, lower body lifts, sprints, gassers – all types of stuff and then I come back out. So most people think I just go back in and get in the cold tub, but in reality I'm going back in working the whole time while they're out here at practice and I come back out toward the end."
Childs still won't put a timetable on his return to practices, but training camp could be a possibility if all things continue to progress well.
"You'd like to get him for training camp when we get down to Mankato. Got my fingers crossed hoping that will happen," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "(We're) waiting on Eric Sugarman and our medical staff to give us the green light. But that would be my hope. We'll see what happens. I'm not sure what direction it will go."
Childs said one of the reasons he has made such strong progress with his recovery this time is that Sugarman, the team's head athletic trainer, and the rest of the medical staff aren't letting him do too much too soon.
"I'm just taking it day by day. I definitely feel good. At the same time, the Minnesota Vikings are not rushing me. That's why I'm doing so well now," he said. "So when we both feel like it's time or feel like I'm ready to go, like 95 percent, 99, 97 – we want to make sure I'm 100 percent. Yeah, I can run routes full speed, cut, break, sprint, all of those good things, but I'm not 100 percent yet."
The Vikings knew of only one other case where an NFL player – Wendell Davis, a receiver for the Chicago Bears – tore both patellar tendons. Davis' injury came in a 1993 game at Vet Stadium in Philadelphia. He missed the 1994 season and attempted to come back and play for the Indianapolis Colts in 1995 but didn't appear in a game.
Childs realizes he still has about six weeks until the start of training camp and just under three months until the regular season opener, but he said he is ahead of schedule. Still, he declines to put a schedule on his return while admitting "it ain't too far away."
"I'm sure if everybody was to catch me running routes, they were going to be like, ‘What? He's like running real good.' I'm sure after you see me running and cutting, you were like, this doesn't even seem right, like this guy shouldn't be … able to sprint full speed straight ahead but yet stopping and cutting on a dime and all that good stuff," Childs said.
"It's just hard work. I've been up here since I got hurt, since I had my surgery … and I ain't had no down time. All my teammates went home. They had a couple months off. I was still here in the snow. I had to let everybody know I'm not just up here playing in the snow because I don't like the cold. There was definitely a purpose for me staying here. I came up here every day. Everybody is like, ‘Oh, you just go there Monday through Friday.' I'm like, Sunday to Sunday. You can't afford to take no days off. You can't afford to just be slacking. You've got to try to do a little more every week."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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