Case Keenum’s grudge match against the Los Angeles Rams is not the only reunion fans will see on Sunday.
Former Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan, who spent last season with the Washington Redskins, is now snapping the ball to Jared Goff for the 7-2 Rams. The 2008 sixth-round pick spent seven successful years in Minnesota before a back injury derailed his 2015 campaign and led to his 2016 release when Joe Berger beat him out for the center job.
It may feel like there was never a proper goodbye for Sullivan, who dutifully started 93 out of 96 games over a six-season stretch between 2009-14 for the Vikings. That’s because his release coincided with Teddy Bridgewater’s serious knee injury on Aug. 30, 2016. In fact, instead of a farewell message, Sullivan delivered a get-well-soon tweet to Bridgewater the day he was cut.
Saying a prayer for you tonight @teddyb_h2o . Stay strong, being hurt is a lonely place but you’ll come back better than ever.
— John Sullivan (@JASully65) August 30, 2016
Sullivan signed an unorthodox one-year, $999,999 contract in Los Angeles. As it turns out, the Rams just like to have fun with their contract numbers.
The veteran replaced Tim Barnes, who started the previous two years at center. After nine starts, Sullivan is ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 12th-best center in the NFL — seventh in pass blocking and 14th in run blocking. He has allowed just one sack. “You always want to see guys go somewhere and play well,” Berger told Zone Coverage. “It seems like he’s been able to continue the career, and it’s been good.”
But Sullivan’s greatest attribute is his intelligence, which he used to help young quarterbacks like Bridgewater or Christian Ponder in Minnesota. Now he’s working with Goff, the former No. 1 pick, who has leapt into the top-10 in most statistical categories this season. Most notably, he is first in yards per attempt (8.5).
Sullivan deserves credit, not only for keeping him upright, but helping him diagnose defenses.
“He sees how everything fits and goes together,” Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters. “It’s almost like sometimes, defensively, it’s a puzzle. If this guy is here, well, this is what’s got to occur, and he’s got a very intricate understanding of that. When you talk football, it doesn’t really take long to figure that out.”
Minnesota took on Sullivan’s Redskins last year, but Sullivan did not play. Sunday, he’ll be in the thick of the action, lined up across from Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson or Shamar Stephen, and perhaps staring into the notorious double A-gap blitz the Vikings like to show.
“John’s really smart,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “He’s really brilliant. He sees stuff. I’m sure he’s got notes on everything that we’ve run against him in the past, so he can not only help quarterbacks but offensive line.”
Vikings down two starters
Minnesota safety Andrew Sendejo (groin/hamstring) was held out of practice for the third straight day and will not play against the Rams, his third missed start of the year. The Vikings may use Anthony Harris or Terence Newman in relief at safety.
In a bit of a surprise, right tackle Mike Remmers was ruled out after missing Friday’s practice. He was limited Wednesday and Thursday with concussion symptoms. Remmers suffered a concussion in Week 8 against Cleveland and did not play in Week 10 against Washington after the bye.
Brian Robison also left the practice field after stretching Friday morning, but Zimmer assured that the veteran defensive end was “not out.” He’ll likely fall back into a rotational role with the return of Everson Griffen (foot) to the lineup.