Kyle Rudolph says John Carlson avoided serious injury 'just in time'
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings tight end John Carlson will miss some time with his sprained knee, but the injury could have been much worse.
That was the verdict after Carlson's fellow tight ends watched tape of the pileup that left Carlson with a Grade 2 sprain of his right medial collateral ligament -- an injury that generally takes two to four weeks to heal.
"John got his leg out of the pile just in time," Kyle Rudolph said on Wednesday.
The injury happened during a drill in Tuesday's padded practice that was "live" on the lines.
According to coach Leslie Frazier, Carlson -- who referred questions about the injury to coaches as he left the field after Wednesday's morning practice -- was blocking when another player fell onto the back of his right leg.
"That tends to happen sometimes when you're doing drills," Frazier said. "It can happen. Legs get caught up. Guys trip up and fall."
Frazier said the timeline for Carlson's return will depend in large part on his pain tolerance but he should only miss "maybe two weeks at the most," putting him back on the field in plenty of time for the Sept. 9 opener against Jacksonville.
The sense after players watched tape was Carlson's quick reaction to the initial contact might have saved him from a far longer absence, just one year after a shoulder injury in training camp cost him an entire season in Seattle.
"Anytime you get away with a sprain, it's scary," Rudolph said. "You've got all these big bodies diving around the pile, and he got his leg up just in time."
The Vikings expect big things from Carlson, the 28-year-old Litchfield native who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with $9.1 million guaranteed in March. Rudolph is the starter, but coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense emphasizes multiple tight end sets.
For now, the other three tight ends on the roster -- Allen Reisner, Mickey Shuler and rookie fourth-round draft pick Rhett Ellison -- all figure to get extra opportunities. The Vikings went to camp with only five tight ends on the roster and may bring in another in Carlson's absence.
Frazier dismissed the suggestion being in shells instead of pads might have avoided the injury.
"It's part of what we do," Rudolph said. "It is a gamble. But we have to do it. We have to get comfortable in our pads and we've got to work on tackling. Short-yardage, goal-line periods -- you expect those to be live. So, it was unfortunate, but it happens and John's going to do everything he can to get back out in a hurry."