John Carlson's concussion not a 'long-term' issue, Vikings coach says
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Tight end John Carlson is expected to miss Thursday's game against Tampa Bay with the fourth documented concussion of his playing career.
But Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said on Tuesday there is no reason to believe the rest of Carlson's season or his career could be in jeopardy.
"Not at this point," Frazier said. "None of the doctors have indicated to me that it's something we have to be concerned about long-term. There will be a lot more discussions, because he hasn't been cleared yet, but at this point, no, not a concern about his long-term future."
Carlson, 28, didn't return to Sunday's win over Arizona after taking an illegal blindside hit from Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson while covering a punt.
He reportedly had two known concussions while playing at Notre Dame and landed in the hospital in January 2011 after suffering another when his head hit the frozen Soldier Field turf during the Seattle Seahawks' divisional playoff lost to Chicago.
In an interview later that month with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, near his hometown of Litchfield, Carlson said he had no recollection of the play, on which he was upended while leaping over Bears safety Danieal Manning and landed on his facemask.
"It looked like it hurt," Carlson told the newspaper. "The first thing I remember after that was being in the ambulance. I was confused at first, but the team doctor was there with me and told me right away where I was and what was going on. From then on, I was getting more and more alert."
The Seahawks cleared Carlson to return last season, but he suffered a shoulder injury in training camp that required surgery and landed him on injured reserve.
That didn't stop the Vikings from giving the former second-round draft pick a five-year, $25 million contract in March. But he sprained a knee the first week of camp, missed the entire preseason and has only three catches for 8 yards in seven games.
Carlson's contract included $9.1 million in guarantees, including a $5 million signing bonus and a $2.9 million base salary for 2012. According to an NFL source, the other $1.2 million is made up of 2013 base salary that is guaranteed for injury only unless Carlson is on the roster as of the first day of the 2013 league year.
In other words, if the Vikings decide they made a bad investment, they could cut Carlson after the season without owing him any future salary, provided he isn't hurt. The cap hit would be $4 million.
Carlson was seen briefly in the Vikings locker room on Tuesday but didn't speak to reporters.
"We talked (Tuesday) morning," Frazier said. "John's a very level-headed guy. He understands where he is in respect to his history with concussions. Our major concern is his health. He knows that, and we're going to do all we can to help him and help our team as well and assist him in recovering from this concussion.
"But he's not down. He has a good frame of mind. He's been through this before."
Carlson's injury leaves the Vikings with only two healthy tight ends, starter Kyle Rudolph and rookie backup Rhett Ellison. They could re-sign Allen Reisner off their practice squad in time to play on Thursday but had made no move as of Tuesday afternoon.