Coach Mike Zimmer just met with reporters for his end-of-the-week podium session, and the topic of the day was the offensive tackle situation.
Zimmer did not confirm the reports, including one from this newspaper, that said Carter Bykowski had suffered a season-ending pectoral injury. He acknowledged it was a pec, but said he didn’t know if Bykowski is done.
Early in training camp, Zimmer spoke about the rash of pectoral injuries. Three weeks and another torn pectoral later — that makes it five in 11 months — Zimmer said the Vikings are still looking for answers.
“It’s a combination of things really,” he said. “It’s dehydrated muscles. It’s getting in the position. It’s sometimes over-strengthening. Sometimes it’s fatigue. We are calling around to every expert we can find and keep digging.”
So the Vikings are still looking for a common thread, if one exists.
Offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, whose 2014 season was ended by a pec injury and is now out for 2015 with a torn Achilles’ tendon, was in the house at Winter Park today after undergoing surgery on Tuesday. He was chatting with teammates at the end of the morning walkthrough.
Zimmer said Loadholt was in better spirits today than he was in the aftermath of the injury, which is understandable. Loadholt told him that he wants to stay around Winter Park this season to rehab his injury so he can be around his teammates, instead of doing the rehab somewhere else.
“He was good. He told me that he doesn’t just not be around the guys, not around the facility. He wants to help any way he can,” Zimmer said. “He obviously was devastated when it happened but now he’s starting to understand that now he’s got to get back.”
With Loadholt and Bykowski lost for the season, the Vikings are suddenly shallow at offensive tackle. David Yankey, who missed part of camp with an ankle injury, has been getting time at both tackle positions this week.
“He was doing good at that point and now he’s kind of working his way back,” Zimmer said. “He’s much improved from where he was a year ago.”
Some non-tackle tidbits from our conversation with Zimmer:
— Zimmer said Anthony Barr told head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman that “he feels the best he’s felt in a long, long time.” Saturday’s game against the Raiders will be the second-year linebacker’s first game action since he went on injured reserve last December because of a knee injury. His other knee had been an issue, too.
— Zimmer poured a tanker truck’s worth of cold water on the Antone Exum hype, arguing that his interception against the Buccaneers was an overthrow and that his fumble recovery against the Steelers was just a lucky bounce . “I know everybody gets all caught up in the interception he had and the fumble recovery he had,” he said. “You know, there’s 118 more plays in a ballgame. That’s what I’m concerned about. Can you be consistent?” I would caution against reading too much into that, though. Zimmer rarely passes up an opportunity to take a youngster down a peg or two when he is getting praised in the press like Exum was this week.
— Zimmer said he sat down and watched tape with rookie cornerback Trae Waynes a couple of days ago and that in the 1-on-1 film session he saw that the first-round pick is playing with improved technique. He also said the Vikings have decided against playing Waynes in the slot for the time being so he can concentrate on one position. “Maybe that was too overzealous and trying to get him to do too many things,” Zimmer said.
Christian Ponder will return to Minnesota this weekend as a member of the Raiders. And the former Vikings first-round pick doesn’t expect to receive a warm reception when he runs out onto the field at TCF Bank Stadium.
“Oh, I’m going to get booed,” Ponder told Bay Area News Group. “I’m trying to figure out, we were talking about it in the quarterback room, what I should do when I get out on the field? Should I take a bow, or what? What’s going to happen? I’m expecting some boos, but it’s all fun though.”
Ponder didn’t live up to expectations here in Minnesota after the Vikings drafted him to be their quarterback of the future in 2011.
Ponder performed well enough in his second NFL season, throwing 18 touchdown passes and rushing for two others, to help the Vikings get into the playoffs. But in his four years here, Ponder averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt and had more turnovers than touchdowns.
His final Vikings start, in 2014, was a disaster. Filling in after Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater both got injured, he threw a pair of picks, one of which was returned for a touchdown, in a blowout loss to the Packers.
Ponder joined the Raiders this offseason and is battling Matt McGloin to be the primary backup to starter Derek Carr, who is in his second season.
Ponder said he will try his best to tune out any boos Saturday night.
“I’m going to enjoy what I’m doing whether fans are cheering or booing,” Ponder said. “If it doesn’t happen, great, if it does happen, I’m prepared.”