On a positive note, the Vikings are entering this offseason with key veterans healthier than they have been in the recent past.
On a not-so-positive note, however, these veterans could be taking their good health elsewhere in 2012.
On Monday, Leslie Frazier showed excitement that starters Kevin Williams, Steve Hutchinson, and Anthony Herrera are entering the offseason without a need for surgery, something that has been a bit or a rarity for each of them of late.
“He is doing fine. From what I was told, he is past that concussion that he had,” Frazier said of Hutchinson, who was thought to be considering retirement, from the Senior Bowl in Mobile. “I know he wants to still play, at least that’s what he told me – he still wants to play.”
Kevin Williams had been battling a knee injury through 2011, and Anthony Herrera has had numerous injuries himself, but Frazier indicated that both are expected to be fully healthy when training camp rolls around.
“Knock on wood, first offseason in a while that he won’t have to be cut on for anything, so very, very encouraging that he can come to camp healthy. That would be great for us,” Frazier said of Williams. “… I was teasing Anthony Herrera, it’s a rarity to see him and Kevin not having any offseason surgeries. It’s a good thing. Neither one of them has to have an offseason surgery.”
In a lot of ways, the health of these veterans makes decisions on their futures as Minnesota Vikings all the more difficult.
Safety Husain Abdullah, who could possibly become a free agent in March, was also contemplating retirement because of concussions despite only being 26 years old. Abdullah, however, has taken it upon himself to get advised by some of the best experts in the field and has been cleared to continue playing in the NFL, and he intends to.
“If I was going to make a big-time decision, I definitely wanted to go talk to them,” Abdullah said on Monday. “It was really educational and I did a couple tests and everything and they just kind of talked to me and helped me out. But they said my concussion was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was and it wasn’t career-burdening at all.”
Abdullah was approached by the Vikings about a contract extension during the 2011 season, but he didn’t want the situation to distract him at all and decided to forego the discussions until the offseason. With the injury history building up, and a poor 2011 campaign, Abdullah may never get another offer from the Vikings now that Rick Spielman is in charge.
Leslie Frazier, however, was elated to hear the news that Abdullah planned to continue his career.
“Good for him. That’s good. Good. Good. Good. I know that that was a concern for all of us,” Frazier said when a reporter told him the news. “He’s a good player. He’s played well for us. It’s unfortunate we lost him this year to the injury, but he’s a guy that’s a good football player.”
Frazier indicated that he thinks Abdullah is in the Vikings plans for this offseason.
Williams, Hutchinson, and Herrera could force the Vikings to take a different approach, however, since they are all on the wrong side of 30 and come with significantly higher paychecks.
In the case of Hutchinson, age 34, he is entering the final year of his contract and is set to cost the team $7 million. His play has decreased significantly since 2009, and this would be a hefty price to pay. The Vikings, who are aiming to get younger, may have little choice to ask Hutchinson to take a paycut in his final year or be cut. Hutchinson, who has really grown roots with his family in Minnesota, just might be willing to give the team a break if it means he gets to remain there.
Herrera, age 31, is also entering the final year of his contract which should pay him $2.65 million in 2012. This isn’t a huge amount of money, but it is certainly more than his performances in the last two seasons are worth. He is also a candidate for the chopping block.
Less likely to be going anywhere is Kevin Williams, who by all appearances is no longer the dominant force he once was, as his contract goes through the 2014 season. His price tag is not a small one though, as he will make $7 million for each of his next three seasons under his current contract. The Vikings, at this point, are probably hoping that Williams will simply rebound and play at the high level fans are accustomed to seeing from him.
So, with Adrian Peterson being the only Vikings player facing major surgery this offseason, the Vikings appear to be in fairly healthy shape.
The only question that remains is whether or not their good health will keep some of these guys from being jettisoned in an attempt to save cap space and get younger.