Rhett Ellison tries to stand up, but his right knee won’t let him. One step, and the leg gives out. Something’s wrong. Seriously wrong.
There’s a little over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game, and Teddy Bridgewater throws a pass to Ellison out of the backfield. The tight end turns upfield, but Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry pulls him down from behind. His right leg gets stuck in the ground and suddenly “pops.” It’s a torn patellar tendon, an injury that’ll keep him down for at least six months.
Down, but not out. That’s because Ellison represents every cliché in the football book; tough, gritty, hardworking, reliable. An injury is just another obstacle, much like the defenders he meets in the trenches or safeties swarming to tackle him down the field. It’s Ellison’s job to recover and make it back onto the field this offseason, and it’s a job he’ll gladly accept.
No matter what the Vikings have asked of Ellison, he’s done so without hesitation. Line up in front of Adrian Peterson as a fullback? Check. Spilt out as a slot wide receiver? Check? Contribute on every special teams unit? Check. He’s the Swiss Army Knife in Mike Zimmer’s pocket, and the tool these Vikings will need in 2016. Set to become a free agent this March, Ellison deserves one more shot in Minnesota, whether fully healthy or not. Without him, the Vikings are another crucial piece away from the Super Bowl.