In case you missed it over the weekend, tucked into the Vikings notebook I filed from beautiful, sunny Thief River Falls was an update on a pair of starting offensive linemen who are working their way back from torn pectoral muscles.
Right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Phil Loadholt were part of a group of six Vikings players who appeared at Arctic Blast up in the northwest corner of the state. Fusco had season-ending surgery for a torn pectoral muscle in late September. Loadholt was lost to a similar injury in November.
Naturally, Fusco is ahead of Loadholt in his recovery, so we’ll start with him.
Fusco suffered his injury in the third game of the season. Vlad Ducasse got the first crack at replacing him, but he struggled and veteran backup Joe Berger was given a shot. Berger held his own, but Fusco’s absence was noticeable.
Fusco has been lifting weights “for three, four weeks now.” He has only worked with weight machines and not free weights, so he hasn’t done a full bench press. But he is starting to feel like himself again, and he assured me he could still bench more than me, which is roughly 85 pounds.
“I’m not setting records right now, but I’m getting up there progressively,” he said.
Fusco typically goes back home to Pittsburgh in the offseason, but he has stayed behind in Minnesota to continue to rehab his injury. He did say, though, that later this month he will head back to Pittsburgh — and feast on some Primanti Bros. He is hopeful that he will be ready to go by the start of OTAs.
As for Loadholt, he says he is “right on pace with where the trainers want me to be at.” Loadholt, who tore his pectoral muscle in Week 12 and was replaced by Mike Harris, has started lifting weights, too, and is working on building his strength back up. The right tackle and the training staff don’t have a target return date yet, but he hopes to participate in some fashion during the spring activities.
“We never really set an exact date, but I’m definitely going to be participating, doing some stuff in the spring, and I’ll definitely be ready for training camp,” Loadholt said. “That’s not even a question right now.”
Loadholt said it has been helpful to have Fusco around as he rehabs his injury.
“I can use him as a gauge,” Loadholt said. “He’s through everything I’m going through right now, so I’m just trying to stay on pace and get ready for the year.”
We leave for a week and all the sudden teams around here start winning? If we were just a little more superstitious — and we’re already plenty superstitious when it comes to sports — we might take it personally, move out of state permanently or both.
As it is, we will simply marvel at the rarity of what is going on. The Wolves have a three-game winning streak. That in and of itself is enough for a parade down First Avenue. The Wild, meanwhile, is undefeated since the All-Star break — a five-game winning streak that has vaulted Minnesota back into playoff contention (from a less than 10 percent chance of making the postseason a couple of weeks ago to more than 40 percent now).
Take a good look at this, Minnesota sports fans. Soak it in like a 75-degree June day. Because these simultaneous winning streaks are rare.
It happened exactly once last season — when the Wolves were as good as they’d been in a decade and the Wild was a playoff team — that both teams were on winning streaks of at least three games at the same time (late February/early March was the time frame).
The Wolves themselves only had nine winning streaks of at least three games between the time KG left and the end of the 2012-13 season (a span of six years).
The Wild had a little more success during that time, and with shootout/OT wins its easier to build a streak. That said, just know that it is exceedingly rare for both teams to get even modestly hot at the same time.
It’s not magic, of course — there are explanations beyond the fact that we left the state (after all, we were in Minnesota for three of the Wild’s five straight wins as well as Sunday’s Wolves win). The Wolves got healthy. The Wild found goaltending stability. The two things everyone was waiting for happened at once.
The depressing part for us is that the Wolves have 11 wins this year, and we’re guessing we’ve seen four of them. They have 40 losses this year, and it feels like we’ve seen all of them.
But this isn’t a time to lament. It’s a time to enjoy. Winning feels good, and the sensation is even better when the opposite is such a familiar thing.